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Nordic region primed to pioneer 5G

The Nordic region could pioneer the commercial use of 5G, with Finland and Sweden hotbeds for the technology

Heading up 5G programmes at Telia, Gabriela Styf Sjöman, head of networks at the Swedish telco, has a career spanning the globe, but is most excited about the opportunities for IT adoption in the Nordic region.

Styf Sjöman joined Telia 18 months ago from Italy, where she worked at Telecom Italia. Having never settled longer than five years in any country, her international career has led her to believe that Sweden is a very technologically advanced country – even more so than the US.

“In Sweden, everyone uses [mobile payment system] Swish to send money. Other countries don’t have that type of adoption,” she added.

She said that Sweden is very inclusive and “there are no limits that prevent people from participating, with technology available to everyone”.

For example, Telia runs a project in cooperation with local authorities around the country to help the elderly learn about digital tools so they can have access to all services.

As a result, Sweden is rich in terms of IT skills. “An employer in Sweden can always find staff with the right skills,” said Styf Sjöman.

The similarities between her jobs in Sweden and Italy is that both companies she worked for were once state-owned telcos. Styf Sjöman held a similar role in Italy in terms of building network, but the customers and partners were different.

To a large extent, Scandinavians enjoy the digital change, while Italians tend to hold on to old routines and maintain positions, she said, adding that Italian companies are less “technology friendly” as a consequence.

Benefits of 5G

According to Styf Sjöman, Sweden has a more innovative landscape, with companies such as Telia and Ericsson at the steering wheel.

For example, Telia launched several 5G initiatives in 2018, with pilots being run in Finland following the company receiving a commercial 5G license.

The biggest of these is in Finland, where Telia has received a commercial license and is piloting the technology. Meanwhile, in Sweden, Telia has started testing the technology through a joint venture with Swedish technical university KTH, based in Stockholm.

“We have a list of proofs of concept to use in Finland,” said Styf Sjöman.

She said the education and manufacturing sectors in Finland could benefit from 5G. “There will be new, valuable ways to provide education and to use new tools in manufacturing,” she added.

The Finnish state gave Telia a license to use 5G commercially, but in Sweden Telia so far only has the right to run tests, which it has recently started.

Telia started looking at 5G in 2016 and invited customers to collaborate with each other and the company in a lab, which has led to many interesting ideas, said Styf Sjöman.

“4G was about building a new and better network, while 5G will be about starting new business processes,” she added.

There will, for example, be new applications for gaming related to virtual reality and augmented reality. These demand high speed and low response times.

Telia, alongside TalTech University and Ericsson, launched Estonia’s first 5G network in December.

As in Sweden, Estonia’s network will be initially used for testing. TalTech University has a self-driving car that will navigate by using 5G, taking advantage of the high-speed network and low latency to communicate with the surrounding infrastructure. Scientists and students from other fields, as well as Estonian companies and startups, can also run tests.

Sweden’s first 5G network was launched in December 2018 in Stockholm at KTH, with the university partnering with Telia and Ericsson, among others. It’s seen as an important step towards its first commercial 5G network and a good opportunity for KTH to test and promote research-driven innovation for the future.

Several other partners will cooperate with tests at KTH in a special lab environment, with remote control of machines (Volvo Construction Equipment) and self-driving electric trucks (Einride) being some examples.

The frequencies required for a commercial launch in Sweden will not be available before 2020.

In Norway, Telia launched a 5G test network in December following a promise to install 5G nodes in 2018. The Norway project includes plans for the world’s first 5G-connected cinema at an Odeon movie theatre in Oslo.

“It is important for us to create the ecosystem for this and to make new business models,” said Styf Sjöman.

The first commercial 5G network is expected to launch next year in Sweden. A 5G spectrum auction will likely be held by the Swedish state late 2019 or early 2020. 

Read more about 5G planning

  • Australia’s second-largest telco, Optus, makes the country’s first 5G data call, paving the way for a fixed wireless service by the first half of 2019.
  • A report released through the government’s 5G Testbeds and Trials programme has recommended the UK rethink its mobile security strategy.
  • Android smartphone brands are already preparing to launch their first 5G handsets, but new technical requirements means they won’t be cheap to build, according to analysts at TrendForce.

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