30 years after the launch of the first GSM service you can use mobile internet to surf the web at home

From phone calls to big-screen streaming – how mobile technology has transformed our lives in three decades
30 years ago, on 26 March 1994, Yettel, then called Pannon GSM, launched the first commercial GSM service in Hungary. Not only the brand, but also mobile technology has seen many innovations over the past three decades. From a prohibitively high entry fee that only offered voice services at the time, we now have unlimited voice and data plans and broadband mobile internet available at affordable rates both on the mobile phone and at home. These 30 years of development have benefited both consumers and business users.

30 years ago, on 26 March 1994, the first commercial GSM service in Hungary was launched on the network of a company today known as Yettel, just three years after the first such service in the world. At that time, waiting times to get fixed-line phones were also long, but the advent of mobile technology created a competitive telecommunications landscape that forced the fixed-line world to speed up. As a result, the waiting time to get a traditional phone has also been dramatically reduced.

Due to its popularity, the service has far exceeded the business plan set at the start of GSM. The original plan was to have 100,000 subscribers by the turn of the millennium, but by that time the company had one million subscribers. The number of mobile subscriptions overtook the number of fixed-line subscriptions nationally in 2001. Shortly after that, 3G brought usable internet on mobile phones, followed by 4G in the 2010s, which provided enough capacity for big-screen internet (on laptops and desktop computers). Its continued evolution and the arrival of 5G in 2019 have further increased the importance of mobile-based data networks, which now offer meaningful benefits not only in the mobile environment, but – due to their speed, flexibility of use and ease of deployment – can also provide a viable alternative to fixed-line internet services in homes and offices.

The value of an unlimited mobile internet plan today goes far beyond the benefits of a telecommunications service. Banking, ordering food and shopping online from your mobile phone, streaming music and TV services, controlling your smart home, connecting to your car or even buying that special piece of garment in an online marketplace all contribute to making everyday life more convenient and enjoyable, and in many cases also promote the choice of more sustainable services.

If I had tens of billions of HUF as a mobile operator, I would build a future-proof mobile network to deliver consistently excellent customer experience, wouldn’t I? ...What else?
In 2020, Yettel launched a comprehensive, multi-year network modernisation project. As part of the initiative, outdated 3G technology has been phased out and replaced with more state-of-the-art and energy-efficient technologies. The capacity of the 4G network, with a national coverage of 99.5%, has been increased to 2-3 times its previous level and the development has paved the way for the deployment of the latest 5G technology and services. Yettel’s network has seen an annual data traffic growth of around 30% in since 2010, rising to 80% last year with the launch of 5G and home services.

Hard work bearing fruit, service quality is at its best

The network modernisation, involving more than 4,000 base stations across the country has also enabled the launch of several new services. Yettel customers can now enjoy the benefits of Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi), a service that helps improve deep indoor network coverage by complementing the mobile network with an in-building WiFi network, providing excellent voice and SMS quality in places where the external mobile signal is weak or non-existent. VoLTE roaming has also been launched enabling Yettel customers to make internet-based mobile voice calls in contracted partner countries. This means they can use their handsets to make calls and use the mobile internet in places such as the USA, where both 2G and 3G technologies are soon to be phased out.

Mobile internet-based home and office internet are very popular in Hungary. The capacity requirements of these services are also served by the modernised network, as is the case with Yettel TV, Yettel’s recently launched big-screen TV service offering 96 channels. The number of users of the latter home services is approaching 100,000 in just two years, while OtthonNet and IrodaNet users are the first in Hungary and the first in the world to benefit from “standalone 5G” services, i.e. services based purely on the technical parameters of 5G technology.

“Network modernisation is coming to an end soon, or in a way it’s already over. Our technology is modernised and we’re ready to meet the long-term needs of our customers, whether it’s reliable voice and internet services, or mobile-based home, office and business services. But a mobile network is never quite ready. We constantly monitor network performance and assess our customers’ needs to make further improvements where necessary. This year, we will focus on further improving 5G coverage, especially in rural areas,” said György Koller, Yettel’s Chief Technical Officer.

Yettel mobile telecommunications timeline

1994 – First GSM service launched
1995 – Launch of SMS service, growing demand for mobile services
1997 – Launch of prepaid tariffs, low entry threshold, predictable costs
2001 – The number of mobile subscriptions in Hungary exceeds the number of fixed-line subscriptions, with nearly 2 million new mobile subscribers in one year across the country
2005 – Launch of 3G, viable mobile internet with known limitations
2006 – Statistics show that mobile penetration has reached 100% of the population
2011 – National mobile penetration reaches 117%, smartphone war between handset vendors begins
2012 – 4G is launched, a technology that offers a mobile network that is relevant for the long term
2017 – Launch of VoLTE (Voice over LTE), 4G-based voice calls offering many times the voice capacity of mobile networks, with better voice quality than ever before
2018 – 4G and 4G+ service cover over 99% of the country’s population
2019 – Launch of the first 5G pilot network
2020 – Commercial launch of 5G. Any Yettel customer with a suitable handset will be able to access 5G in the coverage area
2022 – Launch of mobile internet-based home and office internet services
2023 – Yettel launches the country’s first commercial SA5G service, bringing the best of 5G to its home internet customers
2024 – 30th anniversary of GSM service launch. Today, over 90% of spectrum capacity is used for data traffic, and 15% of mobile internet traffic is carried by 5G.