Telecom operator Vivacom has opened up a new space where citizens, business partners, and startups can test services and solutions that are on the market, or yet to be launched. The Vivacom Tech Hall which is located in the Sofia distruct Mladost 1 will be used mostly as an event and seminar venue.
“The whole idea of the space is to be open towards the outside world, especially the technology sector. This is part of our strategy to develop our existing and future products and services,” says Radoslav Zdravkov, Chief Technology Officer of Vivacom. “We are currently working on a specific program, which we’ll announce in few months. It has two main lines – series of seminars and closer work with startups, and also internal innovation track,” he adds.
Zdravkov believes, Vivacom as a telecommunication company with long tradition could share its experience with the tech industry and develop new products alongside in a collaboration with tech entrepreneurs and universities. Internet of Things (IoT) is the main focus. The new space will be the first lab for 5G network tests of the company. It’s also equipped with other high-speed networks like 4.5G, Fiber Net, LoRaWAN, NB Iot.
The IoT line & the fifth generation
The ongoing trend towards a diversified portfolio of services we see in the telco sector affects both device producers (e.g. Apple that is slowly turning into a service company) and network providers (bundles of services that include IPTV, payments, data solutions). One of the hot topics for Vivacom and also an area where the telecom tries to position itself is IoT and different services related to it – targeted at cities and municipalities, the private sector, and also at the end customer.
In the past two years, the company is working a lot on infrastructure projects related to connectedness. According to Zdravkov, the telecom has invested over €380K in infrastructure in the past five years. Alongside the traditional networks in the licensed spectrum, the telecom has launched a LoRaWAN network (low range network suitable for smaller connected devices especially for sensors – ed.note) in several municipalities in Bulgaria and will further expand in the future.
The essential for the development of IoT 5G network, however, is still far away from mass adoption. Given the current state of the spectrum in Bulgaria (the frequencies between 700 MHz and 800 MHz that are most suitable for the fifth generation are still owned by the Ministry of Defence), it may take another two years to launch a network.
Some examples, yet not many startups
Vivacom demonstrated some of the innovative solutions the company is working on together with external providers. Some of them are solutions for smart parking, smart waste collection, video surveillance, air quality measurements, smart farming, remote reading of water meters, etc.
So far, the telecommunication company seems to partner with predominantly large companies such as Nokia (the main IoT vendor), thе India-based and publicly traded integrator Infosys, or Enigma Guard, a domestic security company.
Vivacom showcased also two projects with young local companies – one with smart city solutions developer Develiot, a spin-off from the network provider Telelink, and CPD Energy, a two-year-old local IT company.
Develiot has developed an independent system for monitoring air quality. The product consists of a hardware component – a device with sensors that monitors multiple factors and transmits information via low-energy network LoRaWAN, and a software dashboard for data visualization. Alongside monitoring, the system allows also forecast for the next 24 to 48 hours.
CPD Energy’s produces smart water meters and electricity meters under the brand Daisy. The smart water meter displays remotely the measured amount of cold water, including retrospectively. The electricity meter reads the actual values of energy registers by tariffs – daily and night, counts the current meter time, reports the current power status to the customer. Both providers and customers can access the application and monitor usage.
A small step towards corporate innovation in Bulgaria
Corporate innovation seems to finally set a foot on the Bulgarian market as well. Vivacom is the first telco to officially launch a space to interact with startups and innovators. So far, the financial sector is the one that seeks contact with the startup ecosystem most proactively. Last year card operator Visa and local investment fund Eleven Ventures started a partnership to accelerate fintech startups and assist their entry into the market through VISA’s client base. Raiffeisen Bank, with its Elevator Lab accelerating program in CEE, is also a corporate venturing pioneer in Bulgaria.