Big Interview

Telia Carrier's Staffan Göjeryd: The key to staying relevant in an SDN and IoT world

Staffan Göjeryd, CEO of Telia Carrier, explains to Jason McGee-Abe how the carrier’s global IP backbone is developing and stresses the importance of creating a dedicated network to leverage the evolving IoT environment.

Staffan Göjeryd, who was appointed CEO of Telia Carrier in August 2016, has had a long-standing relationship with Telia, having been with the company since 1995. He started out at Telia Company at a time when a 14k modem was considered high tech, but he has helped drive Telia Carrier into becoming one of the world’s leading global backbones.

He’s a man who certainly knows Telia customers’ needs and demands for their end-to-end wholesale journey. His technical and customer-facing experience over the past 21 years within Telia Company in both Europe and the US has seen him hold roles such as director of network planning, and head of Telia Carrier’s data and infrastructure business.

“I joined at the infant stages of Telia when it actually evolved into becoming Telia Carrier, back in the 1990s,” says Göjeryd. “I was in the US for a few years and helped to build up a US-based network and then helped to set up all the peering relationships and interconnect agreements they needed.”

After a few years in other roles within Telia Company, he came back into Telia Carrier in 2014 when he headed up data and infrastructure. Göjeryd succeeded Brendan Ives, who after three years as CEO, and 14 years within Telia Carrier, was appointed to head a new unit tasked with accelerating Telia Company’s aim to become a new-generation telco.

So what has been Göjeryd’s philosophy over the first six months at the wholesale carrier he knows all the components and counterparts of? 

“Setting ourselves in the right organisational context to be able to service our customers in a better way,” he says.

“Over the past six months, we’ve been very focused in creating a more unified Telia Carrier. We essentially had two business minds which, although they weren’t running autonomously, needed to be addressed. From an operational point of view, we’re more streamlined and acting as a single entity, and as a result are more operationally efficient and better placed to service our customers and suppliers.”

The creation of a global sales team for its data sales unit was fully rolled out on 1 January, and the voice trading business is now more sustainable. On expanding the IP domain and the footprint, Göjeryd says: “We need to be able to follow our content customers who are moving further and further out in the network, to get closer and closer to the customer base. At the same time there are access customers and we would like to service out of those markets.”

Expanding the global IP network

Telia Carrier has expanded its infrastructure footprint, lighting up fibre with wave equipment, and meshing its network in a better way to get better delay times. This can be exemplified by the new 900km Baltic route between Stockholm and St Petersburg as an alternative path and the establishment of two new points of presence (PoPs) in the Russian city.

“Over the last year we also completed the Los Angeles to San Jose build-out with multiple data centre PoP locations in the Bay area. We established an interconnect in the Belarusian market and extended the reach of our backbone by completing the DWDM express route running between Frankfurt and Warsaw,” says Göjeryd. 

Telia Carrier is looking at expansions in, what Göjeryd says are, “more Tier II or Tier III markets” to better serve their customers. “If you look at the US footprint for instance, we have built out and opened PoP locations in Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Montreal. We added a Zagreb IP PoP to help better serve Europe and to help connectivity in the Balkans region.”

Telia Carrier is also upgrading its subsea cables and ensuring it remains attractive to major cable landing stations, particularly given that today most subsea cable systems go on “more of a PoP-to-PoP reasoning”.

“A good example of this is that we’ve enhanced Latam connectivity by establishing a new network PoP, providing backhaul to the OJUS cable landing station in Hollywood, Florida, with resilient network options.” The carrier is better positioning itself towards subsea cables and landing stations, for example, moving further into the Marseille area where all the new subsea cable capacity is coming in from Asia.

“For clarity, the Marseille PoP location is more about us being attractive in the right cable landing station from an Asian perspective and focused towards the various different subsea cables that are or have been coming in like SEA-WE-ME-5,” stresses Göjeryd, who admits Telia Carrier has not been an investor in subsea cables “for quite some time” as it’s “much more of a diversity play for us”.

Telia Carrier in an SDN world

As the wholesale industry transitions into a much more software-defined world, with cloud helping to drive next-generation traffic, how is Telia Carrier evolving to remain relevant and competitive to support cloud, the enterprises moving towards it, and the internet of things (IoT)?

“We’re supporting the cloudification of traffic by connecting to more data centres and becoming an underlying supplier of capacity between multiple different facilities,” responds Göjeryd. 

“Today, we have a presence in 220 data centres globally and being able to support that traffic with our gradually expanding footprint is helping to drive us to becoming the key underlying carrier and player for data- centre-to-data-centre connectivity.”

It’s all about staying relevant in a field of ever-growing cloud resources and cloud domains, he adds. “Our thought process on the shift towards an SDN world is geared towards enhancing operational efficiency and operational quality to be able to do things more easily, better and in a much more quality assured way.”

That’s Göjeryd’s primary focus in the short-term but “it’s something that we will continue monitoring from an external point of view rather than an operational efficiency and operational quality point of view internally”. 

Evolving IoT ecosystem

The IoT environment is constantly evolving, he says, adding that the IoT “is a buzzword that has been around for quite some time but is evolving into a business in its own right with the proliferation of different ways of accessing services, functions and features.” 

Ericsson revised its estimates down in November to 28 billion connected devices by 2021. “Looking at the quantity of different devices that will potentially connect to the network is just immense, in terms of volume and also in terms of the impact of these numbers for the industry in general,” he says. 

The IoT means real-life applications with real-time demands and makes data moving between networks susceptible to cyberattacks. In order to guarantee end-to-end visibility, reliability and security there must be end-to-end control, which is why Telia Carrier built a dedicated backbone for things.

In June 2016, Telia Carrier signed an agreement with Ericsson to create an IoT backbone, whereby Telia Carrier will provide backhaul and interconnection solutions on a global scale to Ericsson’s Device Connection Platform via a dedicated IoT backbone. 

IoT traffic is separated from the public internet using IPX architecture and the agreement enables IoT operators to connect via any of Telia Carrier’s 220 IPX PoPs directly to Ericsson’s platform in a single network hop. 

“We have labelled it “the internet for things”, and in that context we are utilising the great foundation that we have in the GRX and IPX world,” says Göjeryd. 

“We are looking at gradually expanding our Ericsson agreement and interconnecting various different customers to the device management platform. It’s a very good way of looking at specific requirements and different vertical needs.”

Trends and challenges

5G will bring tremendous growth of bandwidth in terms of volume, rather than necessarily more devices, in the short-to-medium-term. It’s a welcome opportunity for Telia Carrier, which is carving out a niche in the wholesale connectivity space, but “the security risk of multiple devices connected to the network is a real one”. 

Göjeryd adds: “That’s where you can see the dedicated domain network we’re creating safeguarding this risk. You obviously have other challenges, such as the prevailing regulatory aspects, which might not be hitting us directly as a connectivity player in the field but is certainly hitting our customer base on traffic and flows.” The content players are the big drivers of the industry today, rather than the telecoms industry, he admits. 

“You can see that easily when looking at the investments going into subsea cable systems; it’s not actually the traditional carrier environment that are putting the investment in funds today.” Göjeryd warns: “The telco industry needs to look at smarter ways of partnering or collaborating with these companies to stay relevant for where the market is going.”