INTERVIEW | Tamas Banyai: Helping everyone unlock their full potential

epic CEO Tamas Banyai has over 20 years experience in the telecommunications industry and last year spearheaded the transition from Vodafone Malta to the new brand. He explains what epic stands for, highlights the challenges the company faces and shares his vision for the sector in the short and long term

epic CEO Tamas Banyai
epic CEO Tamas Banyai

Why did the change in branding from Vodafone Malta to epic come about?

While building on the technology, network and the team of Vodafone Malta, with new shareholders since April, it was evident that the brand had to change too. Epic is about bringing great quality service and great value together. It is about using our network in a more inclusive way and helping everyone, including businesses, to unlock their full potential. Our rebranding is an opportunity for us to share and reflect this.

After leaving Vodafone Group, we joined Europe’s fastest growing telecoms family through Monaco Telecom bringing new opportunities for Malta. Our shareholder network is present in  Monaco, Cyprus, France, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland and soon also in Poland. Leading this group is Xavier Niel, a renowned technology entrepreneur.  Xavier has continually invested in the telecommunications sector across the world, opening the world’s largest digital incubator, where he finances more than 150 start-ups worldwide. In Paris, he founded a free software engineering school, now considered as France’s best software development school, and which is also present in Silicon Valley.

Monaco Telecom’s other shareholder is the Principality of Monaco, an investor with a long-term perspective, strong finances, and an appetite for innovation in high-end environments. In 2019, Monaco was the first state to launch 5G with nationwide coverage. Together, the Principality of Monaco and Xavier Niel have also launched a start-up incubator called MonacoTech.

Our new shareholders bring innovation and unique international expertise gained in larger markets. However, they also have a deep understanding of the needs of small island states. So we believe that Malta has great potential.

What will be the focus of epic, as a telecoms provider in Malta?

Malta deserves a telecommunications company that offers a state-of-the-art network and services with great value. A great network and great value can exist together, without one compromising the other. Epic is the company that delivers these for Malta.

Our great network promise is focused on three elements:

Improving upon the great mobile network our customers were used to: including great mobile network in Malta and the best roaming experience outside Malta with more than double the destinations than our closest competitor.

More than just mobile: creating all the services families and businesses need, including home and office internet even over fibre, telephony and more.

Promising continued investment: making our services simpler and easier to deal with, including new digital tools and services for our customers, like our new mobile application and our new web portal.

Epic is also about great value. Following our rebranding, we have been offering revolutionary new offers for all segments: unlimited plans without 24 months lock-in contracts, new value top-up plans with double the mobile data, minutes and SMS when compared to the competition offering and our new unlimited plans for business.

How will epic help business clients?

Our epic journey has just started, however our mobile network is the same one which has been recognised as the most recommended network, time and time again. Our company has been known for the best international roaming service with the biggest roaming footprint. Raising the bar to improve it further, today we have an international roaming footprint of 220 countries and 175 4G roaming partner networks worldwide. More than double of our second-best competitor.

With the launch of epic, we also launched Epic for Business and announced new mobile plans, including unlimited plans for business.  However, Epic for Business is more than just a mobile service. We are evolving into a technology company, offering not just mobile but a whole suite of services. In business we are already providing internet bandwidth, telephony, data centre services, international connectivity and more. We have a dedicated narrow-band IoT network for industrial applications, connecting large number of sensors through applications and we will be developing our portfolio for businesses further.

When we say great network and value from epic, this means that we also provide solutions for all your communication needs, wherever you are. We also mean that we want to be simple to deal with. We will invest more in our customer service through new digital tools making it simpler and easier to use.

Where does 5G feature in epic’s immediate plans?

Usually there are three benefits associated with 5G: high speeds, support of large number of IoT devices and low latency (delay) to support applications that require reaction times without any lag/delay.

Our 4.5G network already offers speeds up to 300 Mbps and even close to 1Gbps in some hotspots. We have a dedicated narrow-band IoT network capable of supporting huge amounts of IoT devices. The latency on our network, due to Malta’s size and unique characteristics, is already very low.

5G can help take this to the next level and we believe in this technology. We have lots of experience with it since our shareholders have already rolled out 5G in Monaco and Ireland. We are excited about this opportunity. As we have done over the past 30 years, we will be key players in this space.

What are you most excited about for the next 12 months?

I am excited to ensure that people and businesses in Malta understand how epic makes things better. epic is more than just a logo change. This means delivering on our two promises of Great Value and Great Network.

We started this journey mid-November by launching revolutionary plans for consumers that offer unlimited mobile data, voice and SMS without lock-in contracts and extra fees. We launched new top-up value plans with amazing value (doubled data, SMS and minutes vs our competitors) and we launched Unlimited for Business. We are working hard to get the message to consumers and get as many existing and new customers on these plans as possible because this unlocks so much potential for them.

Similarly I’m excited to fulfill our Great network promise, for which we have three priorities: to improve our network,  to improve the customer service experience and to expand our penetration in fixed services.

What will drive the technology and telecommunications sector in Malta in the near-to-mid future?

The past few months have shown us that connectivity is not for the few digital savvy people, it is for everyone. We call it ‘the democratisation of technology’. This also means that customers do not have to choose between quality and value but are offered both simultaneously. This is our focus. We will challenge the status quo, through efficiency and innovation, for both our consumers and businesses.

In business, it also means going beyond basic connectivity, this also being a key focus area for epic. We have a dedicated IoT network capable of supporting huge amount of sensors, things, applications. We have a mobile network and infrastructure supporting services for businesses such as hosting, international connectivity, security and more. We have an important role to play in helping businesses think more efficiently and be more future proof.

As a technology company, we will be improving further our infrastructure to provide cutting edge connectivity services and cover the needs of our customers to help them dream and build the future as well.

What is your biggest challenge, what keeps you awake at night?

Ensuring customers understand that epic is about making things better. Rebranding doesn’t mean throwing away the good things built before. It is the same ‘us’, but we are improving and working hard to deliver our promise of a Great Network with Great Value. With such a big promise it is not surprising that customers are holding us accountable. Our biggest achievement is to exceed their expectations.

What is your business passion? What excites you most, what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Seeing people succeed and being happy. Our purpose is helping people and businesses unleash their full potential. My personal one is to achieve this through creating an engaged, motivated, and successful team composed of the right people with the right mindset.

Do you think there is a role for AI technology in telecoms networks?

Yes. The telecom sector is data rich. Meaning there is room for providing a great experience and better services by translating data into actionable insights and automated processes. AI can help in this space.

What experience does epic have with AI?

Like the rest of the industry, we are starting out and experimenting. In 2019, we implemented a chatbot with AI capabilities. We strived to improve and experiment with this, until September of last year when we decided to remove it. Regarding new technologies, many boast about successes but we believe it is important to share learnings too. For us, this one proved to be too complex and inefficient to run without complex integration into back-end systems which did not make sense to us at that point. The issue was more with the complexity of our services, the business processes and the way the technology had to be deployed. The customer experience was not good and efficient enough so we decided to pull the plug. We’re now looking at new approaches to address this.

Any favourite apps on your mobile phone?

Garmin Connect: It helps me train and stay fit.

Relive: to create fun videos of runs/walks put on a map.

Qustodio: helps monitor kids’ screen time and keep them safe through filtering harmful content on their devices.

Online video in enterprise? Yes or no?

If there’s a great network behind.

Choose one: Apple iOS or Android?

Any, if running on an epic connection. My main phone is an Android but I have kept an iPhone for some content and apps.

Social media – yes or no?

Yes, with purpose, care and the right level of privacy. For youth: with education, some controls and security.

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