ETNO ThinkDigital Interview: Hélène Barnekow, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at TeliaSonera
“Let’s create regulatory space for innovation and for the evolution of businesses” #ThinkDigital
1. Telecom markets are changing. Which leading trends do you identify between now and 2020?
The trend is pretty clear, it’s data, data and more data! Primarily driven by video traffic within the network, but we will also see the huge growth of connected devices that will rely on high quality, always on connectivity and I think we will also see that the reliance on the network will not just be for consumer devices such as wearable’s and entertainment. I think we will see a growth into more mission critical applications such as healthcare, security, transport which will put a new level of demand on networks when it comes to reliability and security. Customer demands on us remain pretty stable though that’s availability, quality and security – it is just that customer expectations in these areas keep increasing.
2. If markets change, also companies need to change. How do you see telecom operators in 5 years from now?
We see an operator that is very driven by our customers’ demands. As the demand profile of our customers becomes more and more granular and more individualised in terms of the products and services they need, we need to be flexible enough to respond to this. We also need to invest in world class networks. This is something that at TeliaSonera we have a very proud heritage in. We launched the world’s first commercial 4G services back in 2009 and at our capital markets day just a couple of weeks ago we announced we will invest roughly another 1 billion Euros in fibre to make sure our customers get the best possible experience, both fixed and mobile. We have an unprecedented opportunity to deliver increased customer value from our combined networks, products, services – while it is the customer who gets to determine what their services look like.
3. Citizens are transitioning towards a fully-connected lifestyle. What should a successful telco do to keep up with this trend?
The real driver here is the growth from increasingly data hungry and more real time services, it’s clear also that video is going to be the largest driver of that growth but from a TeliaSonera perspective it’s more nuanced than that. In our great International Carrier business we have identified a trend for some time now, which is always-on connectivity, which is eliminating the gap between here and there. We call this trend ‘Anywhereization’. Our customers no longer want a digital life that is constrained by location or type of network that is providing their connectivity: they want their digital life to be as mobile and portable as their devices and we have to respond to that.
4. E-health, m-payments, m2m. These services also have a positive transformative impact on society. How do you see take-up evolving? Will you invest in these areas?
As part of our strategy presentation at our capital markets day we identified two key tracks for our strategy, firstly, invest in the core – getting better at what we do best and then also looking into new areas where we could add value - we call these ‘adjacencies’. These adjacencies are services such as e-payments, e-health, M2M, and the myriad other services that can be enhanced by connectivity. We are already investing in these areas; from a fantastic e-health service in the Region of Västerbotten in Northern Sweden, to connecting Tesla cars to reducing the Energy bills for Vattenfall customers; these are all really exciting opportunities. The positive externalities are clear in these areas and we’re really excited about how we can make our customers lives better in more ways than their usual subscription.
5. Market forces drive the game. But the rules of the game are also important to help the sector grow and deliver better services. What would your advice be to regulators and policy makers?
First of all my advice is to my colleagues in the business: invite regulators and policy makers to be part of the journey, we all have our targets and goals to meet and the more we can understand each other the better. My advice to policy makers would be to be to try and steer away from being too definitive, which is sometimes not easy as there has to be a certain amount of faith put into the market and the players involved. Creating a regulatory space for innovation and the evolution of our businesses makes a lot more sense than setting hard and fast parameters about what our businesses are here to do; our customers’ needs are changing so quickly, we need to be able to deliver for them. That’s not to say regulators and policy makers need to take a hands-off approach, on the contrary, we see in some of our markets an open and continual dialogue which allows all parties to understand, respect and react to the needs of each other without the need for onerous regulatory processes.
By ETNO Digital – Brussels, 6 November 2014
Born 1964. Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer.