Nordic CTO interview: Martin Whitlock, Telenor Connexion

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Nordic CTO interview: Martin Whitlock, Telenor Connexion

Telenor Connexion sits in the same office building as its owner company Telenor, Norway’s former state-owned telco, and is one of the organisation’s growth businesses.

Telenor, through Telenor Connexion, is a global player in the internet of things (IoT), with many customers and users all over the world.  

It provides enterprise customers with IoT capabilities as a service, and has millions of devices connected to its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-based IoT platform.

Telenor bundles customers’ IoT requirements onto a single platform. The service includes storage, networking, cloud, data analytics and payment capabilities for businesses that want to sell services rather than products. They pay per connection/SIM.

The IoT business has seen the company spread its roots. It would be easy to think of a Telenor-owned company as being most active in the Nordics, but Telenor Connexion is undoubtedly international. It has many major global clients and works with 400 mobile roaming partners all over the world. 

“Our operations in Asia with Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Bangladesh have many more SIMs than Telenor has in the Nordic countries,” Telenor Connexion CTO Martin Whitlock tells Computer Weekly at the company’s Stockholm office.

Telenor’s interest in the IoT dates back more than 20 years, says Whitlock. It was during the late 1990s that the company began to develop its systems in-house, and in 2008, the IoT unit became the company’s Telenor Connexion subsidiary. 

Whitlock says the organisation has customers in more than 200 markets worldwide. “Our SIM cards are everywhere really,” he says. “Our customers include Swedish companies such as Volvo Cars, Scania and Husqvarna, which are all active in many markets outside Sweden.” 

Husqvarna, whose IoT use is often mentioned at conferences in Sweden, uses Telenor Connexion SIMs to connect robotic lawn mowers. 

But there is a great opportunity for the company beyond the Nordics, which requires a different approach. “We see that there is a huge need for global solutions,” says Whitlock. “SIM cards need to operate differently in different markets.”

Telenor’s clients outside the Nordics include Japan’s Hitachi Construction Equipment, which has operations worldwide, and China’s China International Marine Containers (CIMC), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of containers. CIMC uses Telenor Connexion’s SIM cards and IoT platform to track its containers.

No one size fits all

Whitlock says the diversity of businesses that can use the IoT is one of the most interesting parts of his job. As a result of this diversity, services are developed alongside customers, he adds.

“We work with clients to develop solutions so we can understand the context in which the solution will be used – we need to see the big picture,” he says.

According to Whitlock, Telenor Connexion helps customers work out a plan, but the client first has to understand why it needs something. “It is usually easy to get started on a proof of concept and in some cases you can get to a fully developed commercial product quickly,” he says.

The company could be about to see an increase in demand as it introduces improvements to its supporting mobile technology.

Whitlock says the 5G technology that will come in the next few years will give IoT users a massive communication capability. “It is already possible today to operate the same functions with 4G – but 5G will be an add-on to the networks and will give clients more IoT power, so to speak,” he says. 

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