LØRN Case #C0420
Going to the next “G”
In this episode of #LØRN, Silvija talks to Ingeborg Øfsthus, CTO at Telenor Norway, about how our lives and workplaces will be transformed in the digital age and the modernization of our network infrastructure within the next five years at least. Ingeborg has held technology management positions in Telenor Operations in Germany, Thailand, and Norway. In addition, she has worked in various Telenor Group positions including establishing and leading the Telenor Group CTO forum. She has been with Telenor since 1998. Ingeborg has experience from starting two greenfield mobile operations, and have built up extensive experience across both network and IT domain in her various roles. Ingeborg holds a Master of Science in Electronic Communications from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Ingeborg Øfsthus

CTO Norge

Telenor

"4G is a great network technology that is able to great things. However, the volume of data that we now need to communicate is getting so big that we need to go to the next generation, the next “G”. That is 5G, and this will happen soon."

Varighet: 23 min

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Who are you and how did you become interested in innovation or your technology?

I am Ingeborg Øfsthus, technology director at Telenor Norway. I ended up a bit by chance in the telecom technology, given that I gratuated from NTNU (NTH at the time!) at the same time as the telecom monopoly in Norway fell, and digital mobile technology (GSM) was being planned. Since then, I have remained in this industry since it is in rapid development and provides the opportunity for international cooperation.

What is the main problem you are trying to solve at your job?

We work to offer the world’s best telecom infrastructure to customers who expect the best – and this in a country with demanding geography and climate! As the need changes from day to day, this is a constant challenge.

What is your main project now?

Now our main project is to modernize Telenor’s infrastructure – expand the mobile network of the future (4G / 5G) and fiber, as well as build down copper-based technology. We are modernizing not only Telenor, but Norway.

Why is it exciting?

It is exciting because we not only have to think about new technology, but how this solves the customers’ needs as well as how we build down old technology.

What do you think are interesting dilemmas in your field?

In general, it is probably a dilemma in my industry that there are expectations and the use of the services is increasing sharply, without this necessarily being reflected in increased willingness to pay.

Your other important projects in the last year?

We are modernizing both transport networks and mobile core networks, as well as a number of our service platforms.

Who inspires you, internationally and nationally?

I am inspired every day by talented colleagues – both in Norway, but also in our sister companies abroad – most recently with a new sister, DNA in Finland, which has already launched 5G.

What do we do uniquely well in Norway, related to your field?

We build world-class mobile networks! We have built a common transport network for fixed and mobile that has shown the ability to handle a huge increase in traffic.

What do you think is relevant knowledge for the future?

In addition to basic knowledge of communication technology, the ability to build networks that optimize and operate themselves using AI / machine learning.

A favorite quote we can hook on you?

It must work!

Main points from our conversation?

Norway is a world leader in how we modernize our infrastructure!

Who are you and how did you become interested in innovation or your technology?

I am Ingeborg Øfsthus, technology director at Telenor Norway. I ended up a bit by chance in the telecom technology, given that I gratuated from NTNU (NTH at the time!) at the same time as the telecom monopoly in Norway fell, and digital mobile technology (GSM) was being planned. Since then, I have remained in this industry since it is in rapid development and provides the opportunity for international cooperation.

What is the main problem you are trying to solve at your job?

We work to offer the world’s best telecom infrastructure to customers who expect the best – and this in a country with demanding geography and climate! As the need changes from day to day, this is a constant challenge.

What is your main project now?

Now our main project is to modernize Telenor’s infrastructure – expand the mobile network of the future (4G / 5G) and fiber, as well as build down copper-based technology. We are modernizing not only Telenor, but Norway.

Why is it exciting?

It is exciting because we not only have to think about new technology, but how this solves the customers’ needs as well as how we build down old technology.

What do you think are interesting dilemmas in your field?

In general, it is probably a dilemma in my industry that there are expectations and the use of the services is increasing sharply, without this necessarily being reflected in increased willingness to pay.

Your other important projects in the last year?

We are modernizing both transport networks and mobile core networks, as well as a number of our service platforms.

Who inspires you, internationally and nationally?

I am inspired every day by talented colleagues – both in Norway, but also in our sister companies abroad – most recently with a new sister, DNA in Finland, which has already launched 5G.

What do we do uniquely well in Norway, related to your field?

We build world-class mobile networks! We have built a common transport network for fixed and mobile that has shown the ability to handle a huge increase in traffic.

What do you think is relevant knowledge for the future?

In addition to basic knowledge of communication technology, the ability to build networks that optimize and operate themselves using AI / machine learning.

A favorite quote we can hook on you?

It must work!

Main points from our conversation?

Norway is a world leader in how we modernize our infrastructure!

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Tema: Digital strategi og nye forretningsmodeller
Organisasjon: Telenor
Perspektiv: Storbedrift
Dato: 190619
Sted: OSLO
Vert: Silvija Seres

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En LØRN CASE er en kort og praktisk, lett og morsom, innovasjonshistorie. Den er fortalt på 30 minutter, er samtalebasert, og virker like bra som podkast, video eller tekst. Lytt og lær der det passer deg best! Vi dekker 15 tematiske områder om teknologi, innovasjon og ledelse, og 10 perspektiver som gründer, forsker etc. På denne siden kan du lytte, se eller lese gratis, men vi anbefaler deg å registrere deg, slik at vi kan lage personaliserte læringsstier for nettopp deg. Vi vil gjerne hjelpe deg komme i gang og fortsette å drive med livslang læring.

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Utskrift av samtalen: Going to the next “G”

Silvija Seres: Hello and welcome to Lørn. My name is Silvija Seres and this is a podcast in collaboration with Telenor. My guest today is Ingeborg  Øfsthus CTO for Telenor Norway. Welcome Ingeborg

 

Ingeborg  Øfsthus: Very nice to be here.

 

Silvija: I've wanted to speak to you ever since I've seen you on the stage in Trondheim at Technoport with your most colorful shoes in the world and your brilliant story about 5G and the future of networks. So I'm very happy that you could be here with us today. Ingeborg we're going to talk about several things. One is your concrete examples of where you push the envelope worldwide from Norway in terms of 5G Internet of Things and the new kinds of networks, maybe modernization of Norway as well.

 

Ingeborg: Sure.

 

Silvija: Modernizing the most modern country in the world when it comes to networks, maybe. And then I would like to ask you some more personal questions about being a female leader that has had a very international leadership track.

 

Ingeborg: Okay, let's go.

 

Silvija: Let's go first, maybe I can ask you a little bit about yourself. So who is Ingeborg again and what drives her?

 

Ingeborg: Yes. Ingeborg is a person who is now actually has approached 50 and has had an amazing journey in telecom. I chose my education a little bit by accident. I chose acoustics. I thought he would bring me close to music. And I started in Trondheim at NTNU and then...

 

Silvija: ...acoustics is the science of sound?

 

Ingeborg: Yes, it is, right and it's actually very deeply linked to radio and frequencies and a lot of wave theory. Right. So what I thought would be very close to music was actually very hard mathematics with quadruple integrals and I would say a lot of things that I didn't quite plan. But then I was deep into my studies when I heard and understood that I would never be a cool studio musician or something like that. But it gave me the opportunity to maybe come out as a maybe not typical engineer. And throughout my whole working life, I have had a lot of opportunities because I may stand out a bit sometimes. And I was there 20 years I've been in Telenor, I have been working in four different countries. I've been working in the group. I have learnt a lot. I met a lot of fantastic people. And it truly has been a journey. I think even I could say that Telecom gave me my husband as well.

 

Silvija: Computer science gave me mine. So they make very good husbands.

 

Ingeborg: You could say that's kind of a fringe benefit.

 

Silvija: Yes. So Ingeborg now runs the kind of technology planning for the Norway part of Telenor, which is not the biggest by the number of customers, but it's very advanced in terms of usage and in terms of P&L.

 

Ingeborg: Yes. ​

 

Silvija: Before that, you worked internationally quite extensively. Can you tell us a little bit about your professional life in Telenor?

 

Ingeborg: Yes, I actually joined Telenor because I wanted to work internationally. So I worked in Germany in what is now O2 for 3 years. Came back to Norway, settled, got the family, all of that, and worked in a group for seven years. And then I got this opportunity to go to Thailand. I was head of I.T. in Dtech in Thailand and I was there for three and a half years.

 

Silvija: Dtech was the Telco company you bought in Thailand.

 

Ingeborg: And that's still our company, it’s a big company. I guess at 22 million customers or something like that is a huge company. But heading up I.T., there was...

 

Silvija: Norwegian lady running I.T. in a Thai telco.

 

Ingeborg: Yeah, no worries.

 

Silvija: No worries.

 

Ingeborg: One thing is actually that you will be very amazed if you go to Thailand and see the diversity there when it comes to gender in the I.T. department it was definitely 50/50 when it comes to men and women. Many women, actually in Thailand, they're in different professions, I think 19 out of 20 faculties in university, more women graduates than men. That is not what you expected huh?

 

Silvija: Ambitious ladies are very good.

 

Ingeborg: Yes. So a lot of very, very good I.T. ladies there. Then I tried to move back to Norway, but I was...

 

Silvija: ..on the way back,

 

Ingeborg: On the way back, I would say I got diverted and then I was asked to come to Telenor Serbia, which has now later been sold. But I came there as a CTO.

 

Silvija: Take a brave lady as well.

 

Ingeborg: There were a lot of big guys, you know, in Serbia, but they have a big heart and they think it's just to sit down and talk about what you want to achieve. I had absolutely no problems being a woman there. Maybe it was a benefit. And after three and a half years as a CTO, I was asked to step up and I got the opportunity to be CEO for two years before I then returned to Norway. After we sold our older ce assets.

 

Silvija: So you were also part of that kind of clean up?

 

Ingeborg: Yes, I was a part of that kind of sales process. And I think that's actually from a leadership perspective, a really interesting journey because there's a lot of uncertainty when you go through that, but you still want to motivate a team to be ready for the next chapter. And I think that they are now...

 

Silvija: ...in good hands.

 

IF: In good hands with a new owner. And I could safely return to Norway and then I would say I got my dream job because leading the technology part in Norway is fantastic, right? It's there. All the fixed networks, it’s the fastest mobile network in the world. It's TV. So it's a broad portfolio and one thing is to plan it but it's actually supposed to work all the time as well. Right?

 

Silvija: You have to change the engine while the plane is in the air in a way.

 

Ingeborg: I think Norway is a very specific country. We have a lot of weather. We have people living all over this country. I myself come from the countryside. Right. We expect excellent connectivity wherever we live. We want the same services. North of Norway, West Coast as we do in Oslo. And then to make sure that you keep that excellent service up and running all the time. And even when we have these winter storms coming, which even has names to them, that requires quite a lot from day to day.

 

Silvija: But I think, you know, people say your geography is always both a blessing and a curse. And I think Norway has an extremely demanding climate and geography, which is what made us so good as you can see. I'm very Norwegian, which is what made us so good at being explorers, ship captains, shipbuilders later, you know, oil platform service providers. And I think that's part of what makes us so good at building networks that work as well.

 

Ingeborg: You might be right. And what I think, though, is that we do see that we are quite good at planning.

 

Silvija: Yeah.

 

Ingeborg: That could also be a curse. But I would not say that we are necessarily the fastest in Telenor Norway, but when we want to do something we get our heads together and we make a proper plan. And when the engine then starts rolling, it's a pretty good engine.

 

Silvija: Yeah.

 

Ingeborg: So I see that there is a resilience in that planning and there is also an eye for detail, maybe also cultural. Right, because we need to keep the details in check in order to survive a harsh winter.

 

Silvija: Yeah, exactly. I think we're good at delivery and we are good at setting brave targets and it's a good combination.

 

Ingeborg: Absolutely.

 

Silvija: I have to ask a personal question about your international professional journey. If you were to try to balance out the good and the bad, the price you had to pay in terms of your social life, you know, being away from Nordmarka and actually the experience you and your family managed to gain through this. What would you say?

 

Ingeborg: I think I would definitely give advice to everybody that if you get that chance and it fits with your personal life, grab it. I think it has really come from professionally, of course, given a lot of challenges and I learned a lot. Even though you're far away from family and your friends, you get, you know, a wider network and you understand the world in a different way. But I think also as a family, you know, it's not always easy. Right. But as a family that really brought us together, you know, we have a history of being this little group on the travel.

 

Silvija: It has bonded you in a different way.

 

Ingeborg: I would say it has bonded the family. I'm very lucky to have an amazing husband, who has been extremely supportive. And we have been both having careers while travelling, which is actually quite not that often you get that.

 

Silvija: It is another challenge to be solved. 

 

Ingeborg: Yes. But the kids have never asked for this one. Right. I think that for them, of course, it is challenging to move from one setting to another. But they have become international kids. They know the code in this international school system. There would be one or two days out of ten where I'm thinking, is this the best thing for them? But I see they have grown a kind of self-confidence when it comes to making new acquaintances...

 

Silvija: ...and dealing with change.

 

Ingeborg: Yes, of course. And I think that they don't think about Norway. They think about the world. They have friends everywhere. Right. And I think that they don't have a lot of boundaries in their head when it comes to what they want to do in their future life. So I think all in all, it's been an amazing experience.

 

Silvija: Very nice. So now let's go to networks.

 

Ingeborg: Yes.

 

Silvija: When I heard you in Trondheim about half a year ago, you were talking about concrete examples of rolling out 5G with pilots in Norway. So Norway is a very advanced market for our technology setting for networks. If you could comment on why and how and then some of the concrete examples that you gave us there, why is it exciting to do this in Norway?

 

Ingeborg: Well, I think that what I see now, when I'm talking about 5G to many different audiences, I get this enormous response of enthusiasm and ambition. And I think a bit of hope because people see that this might be an enabler to create business opportunities, maybe an enabler to create jobs. In Norway, we have a big you know, we might think you're very digitized right, but we know we have a huge journey ahead of us and probably almost all professions will in some way or form be changed. And 5G is an enabler there. So that's why I see that people really react positively normally to that story and in Trondheim I talked about more high tech examples. I think it's also fair to say that these are examples where, you know, the whole business case on those. That's also more, you know, we have to explore, we have to test out. We don't know all of these things, but we had, of course, the example of SalMar, who is really a high tech fish farming at its best.

 

Silvija: SalMar creates these big round kinds of cages in the sea, where salmon is farmed?

 

Ingeborg: Yes. This is really like deep sea fish farming. They are outside Frøya and they, of course, have already seen they are a very big customer already, but they have seen that they are using then sensors and cameras and making sure that, you know, that fish are fed exactly the right way and going forward they would have high definition video of the fish at all times, mixing that possibly with A.I. It can also be used to see whether the fish is healthy, see exactly how much medicine or antibiotics would be needed; how to actually do fish farming in a very sustainable and healthy way. And they can actually then utilize HD video to do it. But to transfer all the videos, they need 5G because this is then much more data.

 

Silvija: This is far out in the sea and has lots of images.

 

Ingeborg: Yes. So I think that what we see, a lot of things we can do with this excellent 4G network we have today. But at some point in time, we see that the data volume to be transferred in a very short time is so big that we need to go to the next G, so to speak. Then we also heard about Yara YARA Birkeland, who is then down in Brevik right there.

 

Silvija: So Yara is a fertilizer production company.

 

Ingeborg: Yes,

 

Silvija: But YARA Birkeland is a ship, a very special kind of a ship?

 

Ingeborg: It's a very special ship because Yara have their industry plant down at Herøya. 

 

Silvija: That’s an island.

 

Ingeborg: That's an industrial area. And they are using a lot of trucks today to transport their goods. So YARA Birkeland is a ship. It will be the world's first autonomous vessel, electric. And if they're supposed to then be automatically moving containers for Yara...

 

Silvija: ...between?

 

Ingeborg: ...between the Herøya and Brevik.

 

Silvija: Where the containers then get transported in some other way or?

 

Ingeborg: And the idea is that this should be a fully automated industry plant with the loading of containers and the removal of the containers all happening totally automatically. And this is then a fantastic use case for 5G.

 

Silvija: Why?

 

Ingeborg: Because it typically would require low latency. Right. Because everything needs to..these robots that's working...

 

Silvija: ...they need real time.

 

Ingeborg: They really need real time. Real time. And then we're talking about 0.01 second latency. And of course, they also see that they need a lot of the images being transferred in order to steer the vessel. Right. So, um, as a backup solution, that would be. So I think that whole autonomous industry plant ambition and the ship autonomous vessel, that's world class innovation actually coming out of Norway.

 

Silvija: And it's a really big ship.

 

Ingeborg: Yeah

 

Silvija: I was surprised when I heard the proportions of this thing.

 

Ingeborg: Well, you need to fit a lot of containers. Right. So it goes without saying. But I think that this is a bit high tech version 

 

Silvija: Yeah.

 

Ingeborg: Let's not forget that there is some kind of good old boring things with 5G as well, which is also very important for us. We have decided that the time is ripe. We want to modernize our network in Norway. We believe we have enough fiber footprint. We believe the 4G network is excellent and 5G is coming. So now we see...

 

Silvija: ...time to move.

 

Ingeborg: Time to move away from our beloved and dear legacy technology, the copper. And then we see that all the customers that we are having now are copper based DSL products, broadband products. We want, of course, to offer them something better. And we can for many of them, we can offer that through 4G. Perfect. But when we come into more densely populated areas, we will see that 5G will be a way to do this in a more efficient way.

 

Silvija: People don't realize how much money companies like Amazon are feeding back into their technology. Basically, all the profits and you know, we don't realize how much computational power storage and all other kinds of aspects of their data mining they are actually investing in. Same way I think people have no idea how much Telenor is actually investing in our infrastructure and network infrastructure in this country. Can you share some of those numbers with us? Things that are public?

 

Ingeborg: I think that we are typically investing four and a half billion Norwegian Kroner per year.

 

Silvija: To make the networks in Norway better.

 

Ingeborg: Yes. And I think that what we see is that we have a demanding audience. Right. We are investing a lot to have when we are being named the world's fastest network. Right. In a country like Norway, that says a lot and that doesn't come without a lot of work and a lot of brain power but of course, also with investments.

 

Silvija: But I think it's a very kind of brave and necessary strategy for the future, because it's by offering this best of class solution that you get into the new international competitive positions as well.

 

Ingeborg: Yeah, I think that it is just that we are in the interest to structure a heavy industry, and that's kind of a ticket to play. And in Norway the customers they have you know, what we deliver is really at the backbone of how we live our lives. We even see us having competitors using part of our networks in order to support their customers. So I think in a way it's a big responsibility, but I am quite proud of playing that part right, that Telenor can play that part in the everyday life in Norway.

 

Silvija: What's the next big thing? I mean, how? What keeps you awake when you think about 5G and rollout in Norway?

 

Ingeborg: I think it is about maybe the totality of it all. And because making sure that we are keeping our excellent mobile network, getting ready, introducing 5G and then starting step by step to sunset the old legacy technology. This is happening at the same time. And we are also rolling out a lot of fiber at the same time. And behind the scenes, we are totally modernizing our mobile core network. We are taking the good old legacy components and then we are virtualizing the core network components. Same way as we've seen in the I.T. world for years. Now this technology is coming into the network and that needs to happen without a single glitch because this is at the heart and soul of the service we’re offering. So I think it is the totality of the modernization we have to do on a component level and on a network level.

 Well, it is something to think about at night.

 

Silvija: Yeah, I agree. I agree. Where do you go to learn? What can you recommend to people as a learning tool?

 

Ingeborg: Well, I think that my starting point would be to ask a lot of questions. Right. I would not necessarily point you to a book or a podcast. Maybe I should say Lørn now right? Hehehe

 

Silvija: After this.

 

Ingeborg: But I think that there is a lot of knowledge all around. Asking questions, using the people around you. In Telenor we are part of a big group. Right. We should learn from not only other industries, but also from our sister companies, you know, be it in Scandinavia or in Asia. So I at least find this kind of being super curious. That is the source of learning. And it's also the source that you don't get bored with your job.

 

Silvija: But it requires a bit of energy and it requires a bit of courage.

 

Ingeborg: I think it maybe requires a little bit of humility as well. Right. Maybe that's not the first thing people would say to me that I am so humble. But I do think the fact that there is always somebody out there who knows better. And there is even though something is good today, it's not necessarily good tomorrow. And I think that having that attitude, like “what's around the corner?’’, you know, and what's out there? Again, it's better that it makes life more fun to live also I think .

 

Silvija: Very cool. Ingeborg towards the end of our conversation, if you are to leave a parting quote to our listeners or if you have a motto, something you'd print on your flag, what would it be?

 

Ingeborg: The one I would like to say is that a little bit less conversation, a little more action, right?!

But I must say that I'm maybe not living it every day. I like to talk, but I think that this. I would go with that.

 

Silvija: Very nice. We’ve talked about many different things. People listen to podcasts often in a kind of a transitional state where they don't pick up on everything we say. If you were to choose one thing that you would like them to remember, what would you like it to be from our conversation?

 

Ingeborg: We are in a time when we are totally, say Norway's changing, we are modernizing Norway. And that's...

 

Silvija: ...again!

 

Ingeborg: We are that and I think that Norway's being digitised. Right. That is a huge change for us as society. In order for Telenor to do our part, we have to bring the technology and the networks of the future as a basis for that digitization.

 

Silvija: So you are kind of laying the table?

 

Ingeborg: Yes.

 

Silvija: For this modernization.

 

Ingeborg: Yes.

 

Silvija: Thank you for doing that. Ingeborg Øfsthus, CTO for Telenor Norway. It was a pleasure and an inspiration talking to you.

 

Ingeborg: Thank you very much.

 

Silvija: Thank you for listening.

 

                                                                          

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