Vodafone Romania recently organized a concert by rock band Vita de Vie, which marked a premiere in Romania: the first live hologram implemented with 5G technology, provided by the mobile operator. In a year when 5G is shaping the agenda for the local telecom industry,
Murielle Lorilloux, CEO of Vodafone Romania, talked to BR about the company’s preparations for the future 5G reality, and investing in innovation and digital transformation aimed at continuously raising the bar in network and service quality.
By Aurel Dragan
One of the most important projects of last year, which is ongoing, is the UPC Romania acquisition. How is the process taking place, and what stage has it reached?
The project is now subject to review and approval by the European Commission. Regarding our convergence targets, one of our top business priorities, we are on track.
Following the completion of the UPC integration process, Vodafone Romania will be a fully integrated telecommunications company. We see this transformation as a future catalyst for further innovation in terms of both network quality, following further investment in speed and quality, and services, in terms of convergence, bundle configuration, access to content across multiple platforms etc. We expect both consumers and businesses to benefit from this change.
Convergence is one of your top three strategic priorities. What about big data and digitalization?
Our focus on big data and AI is an extended process taking place at the level of both our teams and offer portfolio. We are using this area to design personalized offers for our customers and, in this way, we have managed to increase the number of personalized offers suggested to our customers from 7 to 10.
We are continuously improving systems to process AI in order to better understand customers’ needs and offer them products that fully respond to their demands. Today, maintaining existing customers and gaining new ones is less and less about money and more about the value they obtain for the money they spend.
We have a dedicated team of professionals in this area, whose job is to anticipate these needs while being fully compliant from a GDPR point of view.
Digitalization is a continuous journey that covers several areas. At the offer portfolio level, we have launched several innovative products and multiplied digital sales by three. Our Shake app, for instance, aimed at under-24s, is now among the four most downloaded applications. Another example is our Mystery Box concept, based on gamification. This is an invitation launched to our customers that encourages them to transform everyday challenges into a fun experience, a concept that has created a high level of engagement. We are talking about digital campaigns and digital care. We have developed a new gamification module in our My Vodafone App for prepaid service customers.
Last year, Vodafone Romania insourced call-center services and announced a hiring process targeting up to 1,000 people. How many people have been attracted so far and how is the call center functioning now?
We have concluded the insourcing process for call centers, which involved over 700 people in Bucharest, Brasov, Craiova and Pitesti who were welcomed to the Vodafone Romania team. Our belief is that customer service goes beyond price and core support. It is about trust, quality interaction and reliability. We therefore decided to invest in order to bring these teams back in house. This move translates into a more dedicated customer support and ultimately allows us to ensure that we always achieve our objective of providing the best experience to our customers. At the same time, we are continuing an active recruitment process for our IT & digital areas. Our teams are continuously transforming, within a natural process designed to achieve our key priority of digitalization. Our investments in the recruitment process and the right learning and development process for our people also aim to make a real difference for our customers and communities.
We are going through a Vodafone culture change that involves the development of in-house programming teams. We are expanding our teams of developers in order to be more agile in responding to our clients’ needs.
We plan to consolidate our position as employer brand leader in the industry by having the best team able to execute our strategy, and continuing to attract the best talents and people with the right mindset.
5G licenses should be launched this year by ANCOM. How have you prepared Vodafone for 5G? Have you already made investments or launched test projects?
We recently organized the first concert that integrated a live hologram made possible by 5G technology provided by Vodafone Romania. The protagonist of the live hologram sequence was a talented 10-year-old guitar player, who was participating in his first real performance in front of a large audience. This solution for his appearance at the concert, brought to life with our 5G technology, helped him fully connect with the public, despite his stage fright. We proved the future is already present.
In the context of the upcoming license auction, investment in 5G will be about pricing and technology. We hope to be able to invest more in technology and customer experience. In terms of timeframe, the key debate will be how ready the whole ecosystem is for 5G, from the points of view of customer needs. We shall continue to invest in our network, in 4G technology. We see 5G as an enabler for a lot of data traffic. The advantages that this technology brings, especially the low latency, opens great perspectives for AI, VR, games and IoT solutions. 5G is the new enabler for many industries and gives companies the opportunity to review their business models and aspire to a better future.
In what other technologies or innovations does Vodafone invest (AI, IoT, blockchain)?
We continue to invest in IoT. Vodafone has always been a partner for customers, helping them succeed in a digital world by making technology and innovation serve companies. For instance, our IoT smart solutions help retail companies succeed in their digital transformation journey.
Recently, we launched the first Smart Supermarket concept in Romania. This comprises nine fully functional IoT retail solutions that help the retailer to identify customers’ needs and understand their behavior in order to increase efficiency, customer satisfaction, and offer an improved shopping experience.
We can also mention our success in NarrowBand-IoT, a wireless network technology specifically for connecting devices with low bandwidth requirements, using low power whilst providing increased penetration. We have launched the first live NB-IoT network in Romania with countrywide coverage, which consolidated our leadership position on IoT market solutions.
How has mobile data consumption evolved in recent years and how do you predict it will change after 5G implementation?
We have been witnessing a very fast increase in data consumption and expect an exponential evolution over the coming years.
5G technology will be the new enabler for many industries and for this exponential growth in data traffic consumption. It will offer businesses across various economic fields the opportunity to review and improve their business models. We are supporting the development of IoT services that will reshape several sectors and build the success of businesses from key fields. They will be critical for sectors such as automotive.
VR also creates a fantastic opportunity, another area that makes us say that the future is already present.
Global leader in IoT with 80.9 million connections
Vodafone, the global leader in IoT with 80.9 million connections, has announced the findings of its latest IoT Barometer. Surveying 1,758 businesses worldwide, the Barometer finds that more than a third (34 percent) of businesses now use IoT and that 70 percent of these adopters have moved beyond the pilot stage, while 95 percent are seeing the benefits of investment in this technology as it moves into the mainstream.
While use cases for IoT are varied, ranging from medical exoskeletons to connected tyres, the research has found that IoT impacts businesses regardless of size and sector. Sixty percent of businesses that use IoT agree that it has either completely disrupted their industry or will do so in the next five years. Eighty-four percent of adopters report growing confidence in IoT, with 83 percent enlarging the scale of deployments to take advantage of the full benefits.
The most advanced companies have also seen the greatest return on investment in IoT. Eighty-seven percent of those at the top level reported significant returns or benefits from IoT, compared to just 17 percent at the “beginner’s” level. These benefits breed increasing reliance on IoT. Seventy-six percent of adopters say IoT is mission-critical. Some are even finding it hard to imagine business without it — 8 percent of adopters say their “entire business depends on IoT”.
In Romania, Vodafone has implemented IoT solutions for companies in areas such as retail, energy and utilities, automotive, transport and logistics. In 2018, the company launched the first live NB-IoT network in Romania with countrywide coverage, to let its enterprise customers develop and implement a wide range of solutions and applications to improve their business processes.
Vodafone Romania provides IoT solutions for companies from various industries. Recently the operator launched cutting-edge solutions for retailers designed to accelerate their digital transformation journey with a direct impact on improving business efficiency and customer experience. Vodafone Business, the new brand philosophy for enterprise, reflects the operator’s role as a trustworthy partner to deliver business solutions and the best expertise for companies’ digital success.
Vodafone Romania’s IoT smart solutions portfolio for retail includes a wide range of dedicated solutions, including Vodafone Smart Counting, Vodafone Digital Media Signage & Smart Analytics, Vodafone Heat Map, Vodafone Stock Alert, and Vodafone Queue Management.