Nokia taps Telia for new head of strategy

Finnish network vendor Nokia has decided its strategy should be directed by Gabriela Styf Sjöman, formerly of Swedish operator group Telia.

Sjöman (pictured) will replace long-time Chief Strategy Officer Kathrin Buvac, who isn’t leaving Nokia, but will now focus entirely running Nokia’s enterprise division. This move would appear to signify that the enterprise business group, which was only created at the start of this year, requires Buvac’s undivided attention. Whether or not this is because it’s going well or badly remains to be seen.

It seems like a good idea to have operator expertise in a networking vendor strategy team and Sjöman is presumably up to speed on the techie side too, her most recent role at Telia being at the head of its networks division. Nokia is also making much of the fact that she has lived all over the world, having grown up in Mexico and got an MBA from Durham University in the UK.

“We are delighted to welcome Gabriela to Nokia at a pivotal moment in our 5G journey,” said Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri. “She brings a wealth of international knowledge and a deep understanding of our industry, its customers and technologies. Her insight will be critical in refining our strategy for the future. I also want to thank Kathrin, who has continued to lead our strategy organization in addition to her role as President of Nokia Enterprise since January this year.”

“I am excited to join Nokia at such a pivotal time,” said Sjöman. “With its broad portfolio and innovative technology, Nokia is well positioned to help its customers realize the full potential of 5G, and I look forward to being part of further strengthening Nokia in this 5G journey.”

Back in Sweden Nokia rival Ericsson has unveiled its replacement for Rafiah Ibrahim, who decided to call it a day back in March. Fadi Pharaon is being promoted from his current position as VP of networks and managed services in the Europe and Latin America group. He is an Ericsson lifer who seems to have had executive roles for the company in every part of the world.

“With the introduction of 5G we are at an exciting time in the industry,” said Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm. “Our customer relationships are key to build a strong company position in the market for this next phase of industry development. Fadi has the right background, experience and capabilities to lead this work in this Market Area and I am very pleased to see him stepping up to this role.”

“The mobile industry is transforming countries and industries and with 5G becoming a reality, we will see new business opportunities and innovations across our markets,” said Pharaon. “I really look forward to taking on this exciting new role in Market Area Middle East & Africa and work together with both the team in the Market Area as well as the Executive Team. Our abilities to work closely with our customers in our market areas are key to leveraging our technology leadership in 5G.”

We can probably expect every significant announcement from either company to be framed in this ‘now that 5G has arrived’ way. The commercial opportunities presented by 5G are far more diverse and complex than by any previous mobile technology generation, so strategy maybe more important than ever when it comes to capitalising on the 5G opportunity.

Telia toys with facial recognition for ice cream payments

In the ever-lasting search for 5G usecases, Telia has teamed-up with Finnish bank OP to trial facial recognition payment solutions.

While facial recognition technologies are taking a bit of a reputational beating at the moment, there are promising usecases in the pipeline. The issue which is not being discussed here, though certainly warrants more attention in the public domain, is the ethical, responsible and transparent application of the technology.

However, this example, authenticating payments, would appear to be a very logical application of the technology.

Firstly, biometrics are becoming increasingly normalised in payments and financial services authentication through fingerprints or vocal recognition, this is just one step further. Secondly, it is theoretically more secure than current identification and authentication techniques. And finally, banks already have trusted relationships with the consumer, and are yet to be caught up with a privacy scandal.

“Facial payment is a good example of a service that benefits from the capacity increase and lower latency of 5G,” said Janne Koistinen, Head of Telia Finland’s 5G programme. “5G will also take the security of mobile connections to the next level, which is interesting for example for payment and other financial services.”

Using the biometric template uploaded through a camera prior to the purchase with the customers bank, a connected device is used by the merchant to authenticate the individual. The customer then authorises the purchase with a simple click once their face has been recognised.

However, 5G would appear to be key here, largely thanks to the advances in lower latency which can be experienced. Slow service could certainly hinder experience and the commercial benefits promised.

“Besides security, a smooth user experience is important for customers,” said Kristian Luoma, Head of OP Lab. “5G makes the service faster and is therefore the perfect partner for Pivo Face Payment. We believe that the trial with Telia opens a new window to the future.”

Although fingerprints and vocal patterns are theoretically unique to each person, there are environmental factors which might hinder authentication. For example, dirt or grease stop the fingerprint reader from worker, or background noise could impact performance for vocal readers.

Facial recognition is also cheaper. Most smartphones or tablets already have a camera, so no specialist equipment needs to be built into the devices. The camera does not need to be high-end, just functional, therefore the expense is mainly on the software side. It is also a lot more accessible, in that everyone has a face and rarely covers it up when in a store.

For the moment, this trial has been limited to an ice-cream van in Vallila, though it is easy to see the wider applications in numerous different settings.

The challenge which such initiatives might face is the increasingly negative perception of facial recognition. This reputation the technology is working up is largely down to the unethical or secretive application in surveillance. This is a much larger topic which needs to be discussed in the public domain, however this initiative does demonstrate the benefits of facial recognition.

Telia CEO hands in his notice

Johan Dennelind, CEO of Swedish telco group Telia Company, had decided to call it a day after six years at the helm.

Dennelind has a 12-month notice period, however, so he’s going nowhere in a hurry. But he’ll presumably be hoping they find his replacement sooner rather than later so he can have a nice big chunk of gardening leave and get some serious sauna time in.

“It is a true privilege to serve as President and CEO of Telia Company, one of Sweden’s oldest and largest companies,” said Dennelind. “During the last years I have, together with the Board and my team, implemented a transformation and re-alignment of Telia into a company that is well-positioned and well-equipped for the future.

“Telia Company is now entering a new phase with several opportunities for value-creation and with strong commitment from all our more than 20,000 employees. And it is after careful considerations that I now have decided to leave Telia and take on new challenges. I will continue in my role to drive our current agenda forward with full focus and commitment for as long as the Board wants.”

“During his six years as CEO, Johan has vigorously worked with the repositioning of Telia Company,” said Marie Ehrling, Chair of the Telia Board. “The culture and strategy of the company have changed fundamentally and Telia is today a company with strong business focus that truly represents responsible business. Johan’s strong and brave leadership has been crucial for this transformation. The Board and I regret that Johan has chosen to leave the company, but at the same time we respect his decision to take a new step in his career.

“I also want to emphasize the very strong cooperation we have enjoyed during Johan’s tenure as President and CEO. We have had several difficult and tough situations to address and the fact that Johan has always acted with strength and wisdom has been of great importance for the development of Telia. Johan has assured the Board that he will continue in his present role with full force as long as it is needed during his notice period. This secures continuity and focus on several important projects and processes in the company.”

It’s not known whether the new challenges Dennelind alluded to extend to more than sitting in small, hot, humid rooms, but if he does feel the need to get another job it looks like he can count on a good reference from Telia.

Europe wants another look at Telia’s move into broadcasting

Swedish telecoms group Telia wants to buy Bonnier Broadcasting but the European Commission reckons that might be bad for telly in Sweden and Finland.

Last summer Telia announced it was getting its cheque book out once more to buy Swedish company Bonnier Broadcasting, which runs TV channels in Sweden and Finland. At the time this seemed like a classic multiplay move, in which operators get into content in order to offer more complete communications bundles to their customers.

This sort of thing has taken place all over Europe for years, but the European Commission’s current mood seems to be hostile to such moves. “The in-depth investigation we are opening today aims to ensure that Telia’s proposed acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting will not lead to higher prices for or less choice of TV channels for consumers in Finland and Sweden,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The niggle is that Telia already licenses TV channels from broadcasters to put into bundles. “The proposed acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting by Telia Company would create a vertically integrated player in the audio-visual industry in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden,” said the EC press release.

This could mean that Telia won’t let its telco competitors license Bonnier stuff, won’t let them advertise against Bonnier stuff and could even deny access to streaming applications to customers of its competitors. Those are all reasonable concerns but surely they apply to most M&A. Furthermore you’d think anti-competitive behaviour by a telco would be a matter for national regulators.

Telia has responded by saying it figured this would happen. In a press release headlined ‘Investigation into acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting moves into phase 2 in line with expectations’, Telia indicated it had been in the loo-p with the EC’s concerns from the start and will use this phase to put its concerns to rest. It will presumably promise to be really, really nice to its competitors if the EC let it have this one tiny little acquisition.

“A phase 2 investigation into the acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting is fully in line with our expectations and we now look forward to continuing the constructive dialogue with the European Commission,” said Jonas Bengtsson, General Counsel at Telia. We’re confident that any concerns following the in-depth investigation will be resolved.”

Telia bags a big NB-IoT gig

Swedish operator Telia is going to connect nearly a million smart meters using narrowband IoT technology.

The deal has been signed with technology services company One Nordic, which is going to connect approximately 900,000 electricity meters for Swedish electricity distributor Ellevio using the low power wireless protocol. This is Telia’s biggest NB-IoT deal to date but the company has been keen on the commercial potential of the technology for a while.

“NB-IoT is opening up a lot of new use cases for us,” said Björn Hansen, Head of IoT at Telia. “It provides deep indoor coverage, which is ideal for connecting utility meters underground or inside buildings. It also lets us deliver economies of scale that weren’t previously possible. We’re really pleased to be able to support One Nordic on this rollout and are excited to be part of the next generation of smart metering solutions for Ellevio”.

“ONE Nordic needed a flexible, future-proof solution that was economically competitive,” said Anders Malmberg, MD of Smart Metering at One Nordic. “When connecting meters across large geographic areas, economic considerations go far beyond the connectivity alone. Telia is able to provide a high performance fully-managed network that support us in our ambition to focus on delivering first-class services to Ellevio.”

“NB-IoT technology gives us broader and deeper coverage, which is ideal for rural and deep indoor locations,” said Johan Svensson Program Manager at Ellevio. “This allows enhanced machine-to-machine communication that fits perfectly with our smart grid development. It will also allow us to develop and deploy a wide range of new IoT devices and services for our customers in the future.”

While Europe is lagging the US and East Asia in many aspects of 5G the Nordics are doing their bit to drag us along. Telia seems to be conflating NB-IoT with 5G, as indicated by its Estonia launch late last year, while Ericsson is doing its best to further develop NB-IoT. In many ways the two technologies are independent of each other but their development and adoption seem to be happening in parallel so maybe this is an area in which Europe can claim some 5G leadership.

TDC hoovers up Danish spectrum in latest auction

The Danish Energy Agency has completed its latest spectrum auction, with TDC running away with the majority of the available assets.

Of the 20 blocks in the 700, 900 and 2300 MHz frequency bands, TDC won 14, the maximum available to the telco at this auction. 3 Denmark acquired two 10 MHz blocks in each of the 700 and 900 MHz bands, while TT Network, Telia and Telenor’s joint venture, two 5 MHz in the 700 MHz and two 10 MHz in the 900 MHz band.

“Several frequency blocks provide higher speed, longer range and stronger indoor coverage, which gives us a unique position to strengthen and develop the best coverage in Denmark,” said TDC CEO Allison Kirkby.

“TDC has connected all over Denmark for almost 140 years, and the new licenses ensure that Danish consumers, companies and society enjoy new experiences, services and the many opportunities that 5G offers.”

With ambitious plans to rollout 5G across Denmark by the end of 2020, this is certainly an aggressive sign of intent from TDC. The telco paid NOK 1.6 billion, roughly €210 million, for its haul, while 3 Denmark paid a total over roughly €68 million. TT Network paid €14 million for its 700 MHz assets and nothing for 900 MHz, though it will be charged with coverage obligations.

As it currently stands, according to Ovum’s WCIS database, TDC is currently the market leader with 42% market share, TT Network controls roughly 40% of subscriptions, while 3 collects the remaining 18%.

While these prices might seem ludicrously cheap in comparison to other spectrum auctions which have been taking place around the bloc, Denmark’s population of 5.8 million ranks it at 111th worldwide, while its land mass ranks at 130th.

Telia extends 5G reach to Estonia

Just a few weeks after lighting up a 5G network in Sweden, Telia has taken the connectivity euphoria across the Baltic Sea to Estonia.

In partnership with TalTech University, Telia has turned on Estonia’s first 5G network as a test bed for the university, as well as local companies and start-ups. The 5G network is a permanent installation using standardized and commercial 5G products.

“We hope to see new and exciting future services and business models built upon 5G,” said Kirke Saar, CTO at Telia Estonia. “Thus, different stakeholders are welcome to test the possibilities of the new technology at the TalTech University. It is the perfect place for this, combining technical knowledge, smart people and cooperation experiences with very different partners. Additionally, 5G technology supports our newly opened NB-IoT network which now has its first commercial user.”

“It´ll open limitless opportunities for communication in virtual world,” said Rector of TalTech Jaak Aaviksoo. “TalTech, Telia and Ericsson take this step together because we believe in the creativity of both scientists and students in using this platform and generating new ideas. 5G means a thousand steps into the future for the whole Estonia.”

This is of course not Telia’s first venture into the 5G world, having opened up the network at KTH the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, earlier this month. This network has been poised as the first building block for 5G in Sweden.

The first task for the TalTech network will be a 4K live stream on the university campus of the network opening party from the Tallinn Old Town Christmas Market, which was recently voted the best in Europe.

The partnership will not limit the ambitions of those wishing to play around with the 5G network, though one of the first initiatives will focus on autonomous driving. TalTech´s self-driving car made its first official journey in September, though progress will surely be accelerated with the 5G input.

The next stage of the autonomous initiative will be establishing a vehicle-to-vehicle communication platform with Telia, while also optimising the vehicle structure with Silberauto, one of the biggest automotive companies in the Baltics.

Ericsson and Telia hit go button on Sweden’s first 5G network

Telia and Ericsson jointly switched on the first 5G network at KTH the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, with plans for a commercial launch across Sweden in 2020.

The partnership between the pair will see 5G applications tested at the university campus, creating a new innovation centre for the country. Interestingly enough, the pair claim network at KTH is permanent and constitutes the first building block in Sweden’s future 5G network.

“To have access to Sweden’s first 5G network here on campus is an amazing opportunity,” said Professor Jan Gulliksen, VP for Digitalization at KTH. “It gives our researchers, teachers and students a head-start when it comes to understanding and developing this new technology ahead of its wider launch. This is exactly the kind of partnership we believe helps stimulate research-driven innovation.”

“Two years ago, we promised to bring 5G to Helsinki, Tallinn and Stockholm during 2018,” said Johan Dennelind, CEO of Telia. “So, I’m especially proud to launch the first 5G network in Sweden at KTH today.

“This is going to be a truly dynamic test environment where not only large businesses and entrepreneurs from our partnership program but also researchers and students can continue to develop solutions for the connected society so that Sweden can remain at the forefront when 5G is launched commercially in 2020.”

For Sweden, this partnership demonstrates why the Nordics are often the envy of Europe when looking at connectivity and the digital economy. With two of the world’s connectivity heavyweights calling Sweden and Finland home, it should come as no surprise the local telcos play a key role in the development of future technologies.

According to Opensignal’s latest State of LTE report, Norway consistently features as one of the top performing countries worldwide, while Sweden and Finland are not too far behind. With 5G on the horizon it would be a fair bet to suggest these countries will be one of the best performers, though perhaps not realising the dream as quickly as countries such as South Korea and the US.

Telia finds cause for optimism in its latest numbers

Swedish operator group Telia has a spring in its step and decided to upwardly revise its outlook following better than expected Q3 earnings.

Adjusted EBITDA rose 1.8%, in the third quarter, with margin up slightly too. In his accompanying comments Telia CEO Johan Dennelind said the company’s cost reduction programme is going well and that he’s confident whatever financial objectives they set for the year will be achieved.

“We are clearly on track to deliver the net cost reduction of SEK 1.1 billion that we have set out as a priority for the year,” said Dennelind. “Our operational free cash flow continues to be strong, having generated SEK 10.2 billion over the last 12 months. Our adjusted EBITDA is growing in six out of seven countries, with Finland, Norway as well as our central units being the main drivers. The performance is a combination of strong execution of the cost ambition as well as delivering synergies and stronger propositions to customers from the acquisitions we have done in recent years.

“No doubt comparisons will continue to be tough in the fourth quarter, especially in Sweden. Still, given the performance so far, with adjusted EBITDA having grown by 4 percent excluding currency effects, we up our full year EBITDA guidance from ‘in line or slightly above the 2017 level’ to ‘slightly above the 2017 level’.”

Telia seems to be on a similar journey to its compatriot Ericsson, which also expressed cautious optimism when it announced its Q3 numbers yesterday. It’s early days but if vendors and operators continue to sound so chirpy we might be inclined to start drawing hasty conclusions about a 5G-fueled uptick in the telecoms cycle.

Telia Q3 2018

Telia pays the most in Finnish 5G auction

Finland offered up nearly 400 MHz of mid frequency 5G spectrum to its MNOs and Telia bought the most expensive block.

The whole of the 3410-3800 MHz frequency range, split into three blocks of 130 MHz each. After just a few days of bidding Finland’s three MNOs concluded their business as follows:

Frequency band 3410–3540 MHz (A)

Telia Finland

€30,258,000

Frequency band 3540–3670 MHz (B)

Elisa

€26,347,000

Frequency band 3670–3800 MHz (C)

DNA

€21,000,000

The slightly lower frequency stuff apparently has a bit more value than the rest and it’s worth noting that Elisa is the market leader by subscriber number so it looks like Telia has decided to make a strategic move to close the gap in the 5G era. While Finland is admittedly a much smaller country, €77 million seems like a small return for the government when you compare it to the frenzied bidding we’re seeing in Italy.