Hungary - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Like many former communist countries, Hungary possesses an excellent public transport system. The rail system, consisting of 7,606 kilometers (4,726 miles) of track, is state-owned and operated and connects all major cities in Hungary as well as a large number of international destinations. Hungary has 188,203 kilometers (116,944 miles) of highways, 81,680 kilometers (50,756 miles) of which are paved and 438 kilometers (272 miles) of which are expressways. Hungary also has 1,373 kilometers (853 miles) of permanently navigable waterways, including the Danube River flowing north to south through the center of the country. With its tributaries, the Danube provides a low-cost means to transport passengers and a large portion of domestic freight.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Hungary 186 689 437 146.5 105 17.7 58.9 93.13 600
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Germany 311 948 580 214.5 170 73.1 304.7 173.96 14,400
Austria 296 753 516 139.1 282 N/A 233.4 252.01 1,840
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The completion of a canal between the Main River and the Danube River in 1992 allowed for goods to be shipped from the Black Sea to the North Sea. Finally, Hungary had 43 airports in 1999, including an international airport just outside Budapest. Hungary has a national airline, Malév, serving nearly all major European cities and several destinations in North America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The airline was formerly state-owned but has now been partially privatized. The Ministry of Economic Affairs approved a large-scale program, the Széchényi Plan, designed to make massive national investments in highway and property development after 2000.

Power production in Hungary relies on a combination of domestically generated energy sources and imports. In 1999 Hungarian consumption of energy was 33.317 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), while production was 35.104 billion kWh. Hungary still has artificially low subsidized energy prices, but there are plans to allow prices to rise to western European market levels. At present Hungary's energy prices are between one-third and one-half of the prices in EU countries.

Like many other former Eastern bloc countries, Hungary relies heavily on fossil fuels to meet its energy needs. Hungary's estimated sources of primary energy supplies (1996, OECD/IEA) were 16.9 percent coal, 27.1 percent oil, and 40.4 percent natural gas. Of non-fossil fuel sources, 14.6 percent came from nuclear energy, 0.1 percent from hydroelectric sources, and 0.9 percent from other sources. Nuclear energy is produced in Hungary's 1 nuclear power plant, located near the city of Paks. Nuclear energy provides 38.9 percent of Hungary's electricity production, producing 13.969 billion kWh in 1998.

Hungary's telecommunication network has until recently been underdeveloped both from a technological and a service standpoint. But partial privatization of the state telephone company Matáv in 1993 and the planned introduction of competition for land-based telephone lines in 2002 has led to many important changes. Among these has been a spectacular growth in cellular phone services and ownership, with the number of mobile phone subscribers estimated at more than 3 million in 2000. (Official data put this number at 1.62 million in 1999, and 1.034 million in 1998.) There were 3 companies providing cellular service in 2001.

Under communism the telecommunication system was underdeveloped and poorly operated. Even in the first half of the 1990s, Hungarians often had to wait more than a year to have a fixed telephone line installed. This situation has changed quickly in recent years, however. The domestic phone network is now digitized and highly automated and is able to provide almost any telecommunication service need. Trunk services are carried by fiber-optic cable and digital microwave radio relay. Subscribers have had the option of fiber-optic connections (using ISDN lines) since 1996. Hungary has fiber-optic cable connections with all neighboring countries. Total fixed-line telephones in use were 3.609 million in 1999 and estimated at over 4 million in 2000. The Hungarian state telecommunications company, Matáv, had a state-guaranteed monopoly on fixed-line communications, a monopoly that was scheduled to end in 2002.

Hungary has an extensive number of radio stations: 57 FM radio stations, 17 AM radio stations, and 3 shortwave radio stations in 1998. Total radio ownership in 1997 was 7.01 million. Hungary also had 39 television broadcast stations and some 4.42 million televisions in 1997. Internet activity has also grown significantly in Hungary, with 45 Internet service providers operating in 1999. Only 58.9 persons per 1,000 owned personal computers in 1998, a figure well behind the United States, although many more people use computers in school or at their workplaces. The number of Internet users in 1999 was 137,000, and estimates for 2000 put this figure at 733,000.

Since private ownership of publications was legalized in 1989, the print media in Hungary has blossomed. In 1999 there were 10 national daily newspapers, the most popular being Népszabadság and Metró , each with 207,000 copies printed per day. Népszabadság , meaning People's Freedom, was formerly controlled by the communist party but is now independent. Most of Hungary's daily newspapers are partially foreign owned. Hungary also has dozens of weekly and monthly magazines and papers, the largest exceeding 500,000 copies per week.

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Sep 1, 2010 @ 6:18 pm
Actually public transporation lags well behind Western Europe.

1. Hungary is way too dependent on cars and trucks.
2. The train system needs big improvements. It is too slow and there are not enough express trains.
3. My general impression is that gas prices are too low - I believe Western Europe taxes gas more than here.

Relative to the Czech Republic, which is already connected to the fast train network of Western Europe, Hungary is lost in the dust.

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