Telia Finland is doing its bit to help combat coronavirus

The Finnish branch of Telia is supporting government policy making with real-time, but anonymised, user movement data and helping SMEs  with ad minutes giveaways.

To prevent government policies becoming knee-jerk reactions, precise data is critical. In countries where the population takes privacy rights seriously, there needs to be a fine balance between what the government should know and what should be kept out of its reach.

Telia Finland recently announced it is providing the Finnish government with anonymised data of user movement between cities and regions. The government can evaluate the effectiveness of its policies as well as use the data as basis for new measures to contain and supress the spread of the coronavirus.

Called ‘Telia Crowd Insights’, the data is drawn from Telia’s network, then anonymised and analysed on an aggregated basis. Theoretically, data cannot be traced back to individual customers.

“We collect the information from a large geographical area, which makes it impossible to identify individuals. After this, the fully anonymized and aggregated data can be expanded into views with which decision-makers can draw accurate conclusions on the movements of the masses from,” said Petri Seppänen, Head of Business Development at Telia.

“With our service, we can contribute to controlling the situation with the coronavirus and support authorities with knowledge-based management. We have rapidly tailored a report on top of our standard Crowd Insights product, specifically suitable for this exceptional situation,” Seppänen added. He also suggested that if the current initiative proves useful for the Finnish Government Telia may provide similar support to governments in other Nordic countries

Since the beginning of March, the Finnish government has adopted a phased approached to restraining social contact as a means to break the chain of virus spread. The Telia data will prove useful to test the effectiveness of the most recently policy to put under strict control the transport connection between Uusimaa, the region in south Finland where the capital area is located and where the COVID-19 cases are most concentrated, and the rest of the country.

So far Finland has coped better than her Nordic neighbours. The total number of 28 deaths, at the time of writing, puts the mortality rate per million population at 5, compared with 9 in Norway and 29 in Denmark, both of which have much stricter lockdowns in place for longer. The highest mortality rate per million population among the Nordic countries is seen in Sweden at 36.

Meanwhile it is apparent that the onslaught of COVID-19 and the government policies to lock down social life, has made the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) particularly vulnerable. This is bad news for countries like Finland where there are only a small number of big, multinational enterprises while over 90% of all the registered companies employ fewer than 10 people.

To help these small business survive, Telia Finland started giving away their national advertising space in Finland, including ad minutes on national television as well as ad space in big newspapers, social media, and online, which would be beyond the financial means of most of these small businesses. Telia aims to help 100 selected companies each week when the campaign is running, including local restaurants, car repair shops, craftsmen, and others. The campaign started in the last week of March.

“We believe that those who can help, should help. This situation affects us all. As a responsible company we want to do our part to ensure that businesses and people in Finland are able to get through this devastating situation,” said Jari Rapo, Vice President and the Head of Enterprise Business at Telia Finland. “As a big ICT and media corporation we have the possibility to offer our platforms and channels to those in need. Situations like this usually force businesses to cut costs from marketing and this is where we can offer our helping hand.”

Telia is calling on other big enterprises to join them in the endeavour to help save the SMEs in the biggest crisis the country’s economy has seen since the early 1990s, when Finland’s biggest trading partner, the Soviet Union, collapsed.

“We try to help as many companies as possible but we cannot do this alone. We believe that by working together and leading with an example we can help hundreds of small businesses stay afloat,” said Kaisa Pajari, Senior Communications Advisor of Enterprise Business at Telia Finland. “This is why we invite other big companies to join our cause by offering their expertise and platforms to those in need. It is not only Finland where small businesses are affected and we hope our example leads to a global movement. Big companies for example offer their advertising space or digital services.”

Ericsson highlights the telco industry’s green problem

Ericsson has unveiled a new report to promote itself with a green twist, but also highlighting the potential damage new 5G networks could have on the environment.

Like many self-serving politicians, Ericsson is using the green agenda to further it own credibility in the RAN segment, though it has stumbled across what is becoming a very serious issue which has been paid little attention to date. As more telcos integrate sustainability and green elements into the corporate strategies, new networks will be energy guzzlers the likes of which the industry has never seen.

It should not come as a surprise, as you can see from the diagram lifting from Ericsson’s ‘Breaking the Energy Curve’ report.

“The answer is yes,” Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden writes in the report. “It is possible to break the energy curve, i.e. lowering total mobile network energy consumption from today’s level and meeting the massive traffic growth challenge.

“It is not just a possibility. In fact, we believe it is our responsibility, together with all other ICT industry players. Ericsson estimates the current yearly global energy cost of running mobile networks to be $25 billion. From both cost and carbon footprint perspectives, energy consumption is one of our industry’s biggest challenges.”

The impact of these networks on the environment is already quite apparent but will only become more severe unless more energy efficient solutions are sourced. Not only does higher spectrum usually mean more power, networks are set to become denser in the urban environments and more widespread through the rural ones.

Society’s appetite for data is only increasing, therefore networks will become more powerful and ubiquitous. This is demonstrated in the table below, a measure of the carbon emissions from O2 in the UK.

Carbon emissions
Year tCO2eq
2012 6,696.68
2013 8,432.71
2014 7,448.12
2015 10,840.78
2016 10,269.38
2017 7,699.95
2018 7,159.89

The numbers have been decreasing, partly thanks to more energy efficient solutions and clean technology, though the company will have also been offsetting its carbon footprint through various different schemes. Although it is better than nothing, these initiatives should not be seen as the answer as they simply cover up the damage which is being inflicted. Theoretically, burning down a family home and building one elsewhere offsets the consequence, but does it make up for the original act?

It might be a bit unfair to point the finger at O2 here. Every telco will most likely be the same, while progress is being made. The UK telco recently said it has plans to be carbon neutral by 2025 and has also been writing certain sustainability objectives into contracts with its suppliers.

Like O2, a raft of other telcos have been integrating climate change objectives into the corporate strategy. It is a top down effort which should herald results. Orange is another which has set itself a sustainability challenge, the Engage 2025 Strategy outlines an ambition to be carbon neutral by 2040, while BT said it would like to be carbon neutral by 2045 in its 2019 Sustainability report. The GSMA has pledged to get the industry carbon neutral by 2050.

While it might be easy to dismiss something of these statements as PR posturing, there are technologies emerging to aid such missions.

Ericsson offers multi-standard hardware platforms which can help reduce the physical footprint of a network, while it also offers spectrum sharing services to allow telcos to run 4G and 5G simultaneously on the same spectrum. Deploying the latest radio technologies can offer as much as a 30% reduction on energy consumption, a significant figure when you speak to the telco CTOs about how big their energy bills are.

Of course what is worth bearing in mind is that these networks are becoming increasingly dominated by software not hardware. There are new solutions which can dynamically shift performance of products to aid energy consumption. For example, Ericsson is boating of ‘RAN sleep mode’ features to its network management software to help manage the network more effectively. Viavi is another company which is championing new approaches to managing a network through software.

Paul Gowans, Global Director of Solutions Marketing at Viavi, highlighted to use the team had developed a geo-optimised machine learning based algorithm which scales-up and scales-down the performance of the network depending on demand. For example, the networks powering towns in a city’s commuter belt can be optimised between 9am and 5pm. Certain sites can be powered down as demand decreases during the working hours.

Building and managing networks more effectively will of course be a consideration for every telco, both from a commercial and CSR perspective, but what remains to be seen is whether these initiatives and technologies compensate for the increased impact of future networks. Being carbon neutral is all well and good, but if too much of this objective is attributable to projects to offset the initial impact, does it not undermine the ambition of being more environmentally conscious?