Despite the conversation surrounding 5G frequently centering around the potential for change in developed markets, its transformative powers have no borders.  

Telenor Asia Group has customers spanning across Asia’s developed markets in Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and China, but somewhat surprisingly, Thailand is the keenest of their customers to adopt 5G. 

In this episode of Accelerators, we catch up with Seth Ryding, Chief Sales Officer for Global Sales at Telenor Connexion, and Dr Reduan Hasan Khan, Head of B2B Products at dtac. We chat about how 5G can empower societies, shining a light on their work in Thailand, where Telenor is trialing smart solutions with the government and the manufacturing industry – the largest private sector in Thailand.

We also get a glimpse into Telenor Group’s partner ecosystem and diversification strategy: discussing how technologies like 5G and IoT have created new dynamics, which has led Telenor and dtac to adapt their customer enterprise relationships – acting more like partners rather than traditional suppliers.

Stream the episode now to hear more insights on how CSPs can deliver transformative solutions that can take every market further, faster, and beyond. 

“5g is not a solo game – it's about teamwork. It has to be co-creation between the customer who has the problem and the partner of the dtac or Telenor.” 

Dr Reduan Hasan Khan, Head of B2B Products, dtac


Speaker 1: Accelerators from Beyond Now. Hello, and welcome to Accelerators by Beyond Now. Join us, as we speak with industry leaders, and explore the big opportunities ahead in 5G, IoT, AI, and cloud, and the role of the ecosystem. We discuss how to stay ahead, and what technologies, innovation, and business models are driving the industry to accelerate.

Michal Harris: Welcome to another episode of Accelerators. I'm Michal Harris, head of marketing at Beyond Now, and I'm joined by our host Jeremy Cowan, co-founder of IoT Now and VanillaPlus. We are also joined by our guest representing the two sides of the global communication service providers, Telenor. Welcome Dr. Reduan Hasan Khan, head of B2B Products at dtac, and welcome Seth Ryding, CSO of Telenor Connexion. I'm so glad to have you join us today, Jeremy, over to you.

Jeremy Cowan: Thanks Michal. Reduan and Seth, welcome to the Accelerators Podcast.

Seth Ryding: Thank you very much, Jeremy. Very good to be here.

Reduan Hasan Khan: Thank you, Jeremy.

Jeremy Cowan: Great to have you. Thank you very much. We have so much to discuss. I'm just going to dive straight in. In previous episodes of Accelerators, it's become pretty clear that having the right partner ecosystem is key for communication service providers or CSPs, looking to grow revenue from 5G, IoT or Edge. Seth, can you share your experience?

Seth Ryding: Yes, of course, I'd be glad to. I think to start off with, I would like to point out, that it's very important, that there are mutual gains in a partnership, both parties need to see that there is an upside to it. And from Telenor Group, we obviously have a partner organization that sort of handles the large relationships with actors like Google and Apple, and we have smaller relationships, that we've got also within a Telenor Connexion level. What I do found very interesting though, is the relationship in the ecosystems where actual customers work with each other, where we sort of tend to be more like partners rather than supplier and customer.

So I think, having those mutual gains in these different settings is really important. And I think also facilitating different relationships, where different companies can play different parts, depending on what the actual need is from the end-customer.

Jeremy Cowan: So Reduan, what would you add to that from your own experience?

Reduan Hasan Khan: I think, it's super important for dtac to rely on the partnership. And from dtac’s point of view, we have taken a number of initiatives. Previously as a telco, you are more into vendor partner’s relationship, but now we are in the relationship of equals with our partners, especially in areas of IoT co-creation, SaaS software excellence for our SME customers. So I believe this is the way forward. And of course, this is a part of our overall strategy.

Jeremy Cowan: Seth, coming back to you, how are Telenor Connexion and DTAC, involved in the rollout of 5G now?

Seth Ryding: Well, within Telenor Connexion, I would say we're primarily focused on solution and value that the 5G can actually generate. We are an MVNO, so mobile virtual network operator. So we're actually utilizing other mobile network operators' networks. Which means that, we look at what these networks can actually bring in terms of future benefits, it's to societies, to the individual. And obviously we do that in collaboration together with the local companies that we have in a global scale. Obviously, it's both within the Nordics, as well as here in Asia. And in Asia, we work very closely with Reduan, and dtac.

Jeremy Cowan: And Reduan, you mentioned that Thailand is leading the 5G rollout for Telenor Asia Group. This is particularly interesting, because so far... I think it's fair to say most attention has been focused on countries like South Korea, and China. What does 5G look like for you?

Reduan Hasan Khan: That's a good question, Jeremy. I can explain it in two points of view. One is from the government's point of view from public sector, and from private sector. In terms of public sector, I think the government of Thailand is very keen with 5G, the people are very enthusiastic about 5G. We see a lot of discussion on the typical government use cases like smart cities, smart utilities, smart transportation. dtac, has been a part of a number of trials already. For example, we did 5G trials on smart water management, smart electricity management, smart agriculture. So we kind of foresee that there'll be more and better citizen services, better cities utilities through these 5G use cases in the public sector. And Thailand has a big manufacturing industry. And 5G's are going to drive a lot of automation, efficiency, and transformation in that industry.

We are also getting a lot of interest from the private sector as well. So we see a lot of new use cases, new application, improving the efficiency, productivity, and worker safety in the private sector. So that's how things are shaping up as far as 5G is concerned in Thailand.

Jeremy Cowan: Obviously, together you bring interesting and very different global perspectives ranging from mature markets like Norway, Singapore, and Japan, to high-growth markets like Thailand. Seth, is there much variation in how different markets consume 5G? And could you perhaps share some examples of use cases, and how they differ, if at all?

Seth Ryding: Yeah, it's for sure. I think that there are pretty large differences. To begin with, the user cases that there is a lot of hype about, the ones that are really utilizing the new capabilities that 5G brings to the market, such as autonomous vehicles, automated ports, smart manufacturing.

Obviously, these are the ones that also utilizes edge computing, AI, where you really can have the large benefits. But what's significant, or I think what differentiates these ones is that, they are usually deployed in small environments. It is one local port, or it is one manufacturing site. I think comparing that to the benefits of society, where you can have large data transfer for example, where you can see the fixed wireless transformation, where you don't need to rollout fiber in rural areas, those are very different cases.

Obviously, there are differences from the global scale on how the consumers utilizes data. I think that will change over time. There is also a direct relationship to how these 5G networks are deployed. You mentioned Korea as one example, they have a very high level of rollout for the moment. I know the Telenor Group for an example, have the ambition to have a nationwide rollout in the Nordics by 2023, from a population perspective.

And obviously that rollout needs to be covering all roads for example, and able to enable autonomous cars. So I think we definitely see variations over time. And obviously, an individual country's economic state, has a large impact on how those things will actually be utilized.

Jeremy Cowan: Reduan, what's your perspective on the differences in between the various markets?

Reduan Hasan Khan: Yeah, I think every market has their unique needs, and as far as Thailand is concerned, it has a heavy manufacturing industrial base here. They need automation and efficiency to compete with other markets. So the initial interest and traction are coming from those sectors. The government is also very keen as well. So obviously, there are a few challenges. For example, if you compare with 4G, 5G needs an ecosystem. So it's not just the connectivity, the whole ecosystem needs to step up, be it device, be it platform, use cases and et cetera.

Still, very early days in Thailand, there are a few challenges due to pandemic, due to the economy of scale of the devices. But we see all are good indications or good pointers in the market, and hopefully things will ramp up soon.

Jeremy Cowan: Yeah, that brings me to a related point. I mean, it's really interesting to compare now, how 5G is rolling out compared to the 4G rollout. Obviously, 4G wasn't troubled by the pandemic. If you can set that to one side, are you able to compare how 5G is doing?

Reduan Hasan Khan: Obviously, that is not an apple to apple comparison between these two technologies. The type of technology, their use cases, and their audiences are quite different. And as I've mentioned, it requires a lot of ecosystem support to scale 5G. Especially there are three streams of 5G. We see a lot of traction on the IoT stream, mMTC stream for last few years.

There's a new evolving space in the 5G private network and edge, which is evolving to us URLLC for the future use cases. And then obviously, there are a lot of customer expectation on the eMBB, enhanced mobile broadband side. But obviously, there are a few challenges as well, and obviously pandemic is an issue, but we are quite hopeful that it's going to pick up soon.

Jeremy Cowan: Are you able to quantify how the pandemic has impacted the rollout of 5G? And perhaps, you could expand on the measures that you're taking to overcome this hurdle.

Reduan Hasan Khan: I think, pandemic has multiple effects. There are some local dynamics for example, the companies are more concerned about their bottom line, so they're slashing cost, delaying projects. There's also a concern of undertaking projects and ensuring safety, because 5G... A lot of 5G use cases, especially on the automation use cases, you need real devices, real people working on the ground.

Globally, there are logistic issues, and we all know that is a problem. So that is also impacting the supply chain. It's a bit difficult to quantify, but at least it has delayed from 12 months to 18 months, on the overall attraction on 5G. But obviously, we are utilizing this time to create awareness in the market, to do a lot of POCs both in public sector and in private sector. I think that creates a good awareness and demand. And hopefully, when things starts to get a little bit normal, we'll see that more products coming in, and we'll be able to recoup at the loss, or the delay in the rollout of 5G.

Jeremy Cowan: Seth, Reduan has talked about the impact in Thailand. Could you describe a little bit about how you've responded to the impact in the wider market?

Seth Ryding: I mean, there've been several things that have happened over the last year, obviously with lockdowns. I think we shouldn't miss perhaps also the ship in the Suez Canal. And I think most recently here, for over the last two weeks, with southern part of China, we were having in one of the major ports, where the estimations of some 130,000 containers being in a backlog to be shipped out, which is expected to have impacts all the way up until the Christmas shopping, both in Europe and the US.

So I think in one case, we're seeing global impacts that is delaying a lot of things. On the other hand, I think that this is really putting the spotlight on the need of digitalization as well as sort of touch-free operations. So when this is being under-controlled... I don't think it's going to be over for quite some time, but under control, which means that we can sort of operate closer to a normal level.

I think that we will see a huge increase in terms of rollouts of smart devices. One example is smart meters in Malaysia. We're involved in a rollout project there that has sort of stopped during the pandemic, but has also really shown the importance of having a smart meter, because now you're struggling with the ability to actually send invoices, because you don't know what the utilization of the system is. So it becomes very obvious where the weak points are in systems where you are dependent on people being involved.

Obviously also, I think touchless payments, you have... The risk of handling cash is one thing also that obviously has an impact on moving the wires from one person to another. So it's many different areas. So short-term difficulty impact, long-term opportunity.

Jeremy Cowan: Seth, taking a step back for a moment, and looking at the wider picture. Many telcos are aiming to become technology companies, and they're kind of moving away from a pure connectivity offering to a much broader technology and services suite. Some like Vodafone and Telefónica, are even creating separate technology business units, too. Do you see Telenor and DTAC doing something similar?

Seth Ryding: I definitely see us moving in that direction. I think in many ways, we have already done that within specific verticals. It's always a balance between core capabilities and additional value-add that you add to the top, but I would say live as you learn. Within Telenor Connexion, we always talk about the importance of transforming your company, and also shifting from actually selling the product, to selling the service. And obviously that applies for us as well. We have done this in several countries, providing financial services, medical services, agricultural services as well, and I think that will just continue to evolve. Obviously, we have a large customer base from a global scale that we do sort of work together with, or the opportunity to provide additional services.

On the other hand, it's important not to step on your customer's toes. So you need to sort of also in a way, keep within the area that you're in. And I think that's definitely something that is of great importance within the IoT domain, where Reduan and I primarily operate. Because, we're providing connectivity and other components to a solution, to a customer that normally provides an end-to-end service. If we sort of start to create a competing end-to-end service, then it could become a challenge.

So we're trying to maximize our capabilities, local connectivity, cloud, satellite communication, and other things that we have within Telenor Group, in order to bring the best value to the market. But definitely, the transition has to go on all the time independently or where you are, in order to stay relevant.

Jeremy Cowan: So that transition, does that mean that you are responding on a day-to-day basis to IoT needs, in delivering new services as they're required?

Seth Ryding: I think there are many angles on the requests that we get. It could be something where it's only connectivity. It could also be something where we're supposed to front it, or offer a solution. It could be a cloud solution. So sort of depending on how the lead starts and what the request is, we might take different positions. But it also becomes over time... We were talking before about the sort of a consultative approach. I think having that kind of mentality in the way that you work, and also utilizing our history in terms of being within the M2M, or IT domain for almost 20 years, that's obviously something that we utilize.

Yeah, I think it's definitely more and more towards talking about complete solution, and guiding our customers in that direction, rather than just supplying one single part of the solution.

Jeremy Cowan: Reduan, coming back to you for a moment. What experience can you share with your peers from your rollout of IoT and 5G solutions?

Reduan Hasan Khan: Yeah, thanks. Good question, Jeremy. I'll build on top of what Seth just said. Especially the enterprise customer, they don't want a connectivity provider, they want us to be a strategy partner, to understand their problems, their business need, and give them a solution. So this is exactly we need to do, if we are to kind of win in this area. We need to understand our customer's problem, and we need to give them a solution, not only in terms of the technology and product. The other thing is that, whatever we suggest or we propose, it has to be future-proof. The technology landscape is changing very fast, but we need to ensure that customer's investment, their TCO, is at least safer in the short-term and also in that term.

So we need to propose something which is future-proof. For example, all use case doesn't need 5G, you can do it in 4G. You can keep the cost limited, and then you go to 5G when you have a real need. So future-proof is something that is super important. And the last thing is that, 5G is not a solo game, it's a teamwork. And it has to be co-creation between the customer who has a problem, and the partner of dtac or Telenor, and the capabilities of dtac. So that's how we're kind of doing it. We are trying to always look for co-creation, always look for solving the problem, not to position our product. And finally, thinking from customer shoes.

Jeremy Cowan: These are fascinating and huge changes for any business. Seth, would you care to add anything to what Reduan has said about the future-proofing, and the shift away from pure connectivity?

Seth Ryding: Also, what I would like to contribute here, or add is that, I think it's very important to start small. And I think also, time to market is of great importance. Getting some kind of proof of concept in the market fast, to sort of try to show the value of the solution that you have created. I think that is something that is very important, both internally, as well as externally.

And then, I think in the external discussion, when you talk to a customer, I think it's important to focus more on value, rather than on cost. You need to believe in what you're actually providing over time, because if the value is 10 times higher than the cost, then you should not have a cost-focused discussion.

Jeremy Cowan: Reduan, the name of this podcast is as you know, Accelerators, can you share a personal experience, when you needed to drive change faster?

Reduan Hasan Khan: Absolutely Jeremy, I can share one of my recent experience, and I think I have a lot of personal reflection and learning from that as well. So you see that when we're talking about business critical, 5G and IoT services, the role of our process is super critical, because it's not just a connectivity solution, this is part of customers, day-to-day operation, day-to-day business processes.

And being a telco, it's a bit difficult to ensure that sort of urgency in your after sales value chain, because typically we are kind of accustomed to serve consumers, and it's okay if you lose your mobile phone for a few hours, you have another phone you can use, another person's phone. So, it was a big challenge for our customers, to get on-time response, to handle faster incidents, and et cetera. And I think what made the difference end of the day is to setting the narrative, that why we need faster support, why we need to treat these new generation products differently, than our voice and data, minutes and the megabytes offering.

Once the organization understand the customer's pain point, once they start to think from a customer's point of view, it becomes much easier. So giving the proper narrative, and also giving the kind of the right purpose, and also kind of motivate the team, that they are making a difference in a business's or customer's life helped a lot.

Jeremy Cowan: That's really interesting. Seth, anything you would like to add on driving change faster?

Seth Ryding: Yes, definitely. I think this last year and a half, has definitely put extreme requirements on my organization. Obviously, having a global representation or a global responsibility, puts very different requirements on the business. And I was even before the pandemic, driving a more decentralized structure of the way that we are represented. Obviously different needs in Asia, language differences, Chinese, Japanese, Thai. You have the European countries, you have the Middle East, US, English.

We are a company that is originated out of Sweden, and so English is the standard internal company language. But having more than 30 nationalities within the company, obviously gives us a lot of opportunities. But my focus has always been to try to become local. So combining our global scale of 180 million global customers in the global reach, with being a small mid-size company with 160 employees that we have within Connexion, and then utilize that to create the local relationships.

But the change that I really needed to drive, was to increase the local hiring in the countries where we have representation, where we didn't have that pre the pandemic situation. But that has fallen into place, we're really seeing that, that is paying off. So I think yeah, that's an example of how I really had to push for the localization over the last year and a half.

Jeremy Cowan: That's fascinating the way that the recent experience of the pandemic has impacted on you in that way. Finally, I've got a question for you both. I'm going to come to Reduan first, if I may, and then Seth, the IoT can now connect as we know, almost anything to the internet, but you have rightly pointed in the past to the importance of identifying a business case. Does this mean DTAC and Telenor, now provide more consulting services than before, to help identify the wider benefits, the societal benefits such as cutting traffic pollution with parking sensors, as well as the immediate problem of assisting parking? Is that something that you could shed any light on Reduan?

Reduan Hasan Khan: Absolutely. I think Telenor as a company, our vision is to empower the society. And these 5G, IoT, AI narrative scores well with our vision. And as a company, we are more and more consultative when we deal with the customer, especially in the business segment. We understand that we cannot give the total solution, but we are part of the total solution, an important part.

And we can mobilize our partners, we can mobilize technology, to ensure the best solution for our customers. Locally in DTAC, when we engage with our customers, we engage with a open mindset. In Telenor, we have been practicing design thinking for a while. And when we approach our customers, we also go with this design-thinking approach. We approach the problem, and then we kind of position the solution. And our available proposition in Thailand is that, we have the local expertise. We have our people, our network, our technology, and we also have a global expertise throughout Telenor Group. And combining this local presence, and global expertise of Telenor, we are in a position to give the best solution to our customer. And that's how we try to position ourself and provide services.

Jeremy Cowan: Thanks Reduan. Seth, I'm sure that there must be the wider view on this from Telenor. I know you've already mentioned about moving to a more consulting approach. I'm really interested in the sort of the broad view from the end-user point of view, the societal benefits, as well as the immediate benefits of IoT for the end customer.

Seth Ryding: I think we've talked a bit about here, the importance or the impact that this can have on society. I think traffic congestion is obviously something that can be decreased to begin with. Hopefully overtime almost eliminated by maximizing the use of existing resources within the traffic system. So throughout, they're actually talking about transport system, than just going from place A to place B.

I think also environmental perspective, if we sort out the transportation challenge, that would also have an effective on the environment. So there are many things that can improve over time. I think within Telenor Connexion, we have always been working in a very consultative way with our customers or partners.

We continuously get the feedback that we are scoring high within that domain. I think, have a good understanding of what is best practice within different verticals, as well as knowledge sharing is also very important. Seeing this as being an ecosystem, nobody can do it on your own. New technologies as we talked about 5G, but also the majority of the components that are needed within an IoT solution. You can pretty much get off the shelf nowadays, you don't have to actually develop everything, that you used to be able to have to do about 10 years ago.

I think linking also our different customers and partners with each other in order to maximize our common gain, is something that also drives optimization within automotive, transport and logistics, smart cities, and so on, there are a lot of benefits that can be done. And I want to really pick up where Reduan started. I think empowering societies, that is something that is great importance for the whole Telenor Group. And that's really something that we live with every day in terms of trying to contribute.

Jeremy Cowan: Gentlemen, it's been really great talking to you. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with our audience. Thank you first, Reduan.

Reduan Hasan Khan: Thanks Jeremy, for the opportunity. And it was a pleasure to speak to you.

Jeremy Cowan: It's been great to have you here. And thank you too, Seth.

Seth Ryding: Thank you very much Jeremy. Yeah, this is obviously a very interesting area to talk about. There are so many things that we could just elaborate on continuously. But I also like the conversation, so thank you very much.

Jeremy Cowan: Not at all, thank you very much for your time. And now, let me hand back to Michal.

Michal Harris: Thank you Jeremy, and thank you to our guests, Reduan Hasan Khan and Seth Ryding. It's been great to discuss Telenor involvement in the rollout of 5G, and the differences between the different markets. Thank you for taking the time to join us on Accelerators. Accelerators is a podcast by Beyond Now. Hosted by Jeremy Cowan, and joined by me, Michal Harris. We hope today's discussion has inspired you to accelerate further, faster, and beyond. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast on Spotify, Amazon, or Apple Podcast. This podcast is published biweekly, and produced by Fox Agency.

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