Big Interview

Wholesale’s new bright star

Staffan Göjeryd AS1299.jpg
Staffan Göjeryd, Arelion

Arelion is the new name for Telia Carrier, marking its move into the hands of a pension fund. CEO Staffan Göjeryd and CMO Maja Sever tell Alan Burkitt-Gray what this new identity means

Telia Carrier, which Swedish pension funds bought for €935 million last year, has been renamed ‘Arelion’. Staff across the world were told about the new name in January.

“It’s important to stay with connectivity. We’re still the same company, the same people,” says chief executive Staffan Göjeryd in an exclusive interview with Capacity, just before the official announcement.

For the industry at large and for customers, it is only the name and the ownership that have changed: Arelion is still AS1299, although many of the internet’s listings of autonomous systems still call it Telia Carrier.

“Becoming separate from the Telia Company and being our own identity is a very important part of the journey,” says Göjeryd, who joined the Telia group in 1995, just two years after it started building an international carrier network. He has worked in Sweden, the US and elsewhere in that time.

Rebrandings are nothing new to the unit. Sweden’s Telia and Finland’s Sonera merged in 2002, when the company was renamed TeliaSonera and its global arm became TeliaSonera International Carrier. In time Sonera was dropped from the main corporate identity and the global wholesale unit.

Later, International also disappeared and the business became simply Telia Carrier – until January 2022.

Göjeryd admits that the name change took “a bit of time”, but he sees it as “important internally and externally. It’s about building international pride and about defining ourselves”.

Arelion – pronounced “ah-ray-li-yon” – is based on the word “reliable”, says Maja Sever, its chief marketing officer. Its website,, went live on 19 January: its dominant colour is purple.

“The new visual identity comes from the heart of what we do,” says Sever. It represents “connectivity and the role we play – and how light can be used”.

Enterprise expansion

The renamed company will expand under its new ownership from its traditional core business with telecoms carriers to include enterprises, says Göjeryd. “We’ll still focus on the core of the past 20 years, [but] we see there are a lot of enterprises moving to internet-first,” he says.

Increasingly, businesses want to connect consumers, which, Göjeryd acknowledges, is “a big change from what they were doing before. A lot of enterprises are moving in that direction”, he says.

“It’s a matter of understanding where the market is going and where we’re heading as an organisation. We still have a strong foothold in what we’re known for. Connectivity is becoming increasingly important for different segments of customers.”

In October 2020, Telia Company, Arelion’s former parent, announced that it was selling its global operation, Telia Carrier, to Polhem Infra, an infrastructure investor owned by Swedish pension funds, for 9,450 million kronor (€935 million). It was a move that was totally unexpected by the industry. The two companies said they would have a “strategic long-term partnership”.

Excellent owner

At the time, Allison Kirkby, Telia’s group CEO, said: “I’m confident that under the continued leadership of Staffan Göjeryd. ... Polhem Infra will be an excellent owner for Telia Carrier and that it will continue to go from strength to strength under their stewardship.”

This was the first major change to Telia since Kirkby started as group CEO in May 2020, although previous leaders oversaw a gradual withdrawal from investments in central Asia and elsewhere.

According to a statement issued by Telia at the time, the acquisition was Polhem Infra’s first investment in digital infrastructure. However, Polhem Infra’s statement put it slightly differently: “Polhem Infra’s strategy is to create value by investing in companies that own and operate infrastructure assets that provide essential services to society.”

Polhem Infra is jointly owned by three Swedish pension funds that are, according to the Swedish government, required to manage their capital in a way that provides the maximum benefit to the country’s pension system. This means their mandates are to invest their capital to achieve high returns over long terms at low risk.

In 2020, Mikael Lundin, who was CEO of Polhem Infra, said: “As an investor in Nordic infrastructure we’ll be a stable and long-term owner, committed to [Telia Carrier] and its role in the transition towards sustainable and thriving societies globally. We’ll support the company with a thought-leading board of directors, and we’ll continue to invest in digital infrastructure, a core investment area for us.”

So far, Polhem Infra lists just two investments other than Arelion: Solör Bioenergy Group – a renewable energy company with operations in Norway and Sweden – and a wind power company, Skaftåsen.

Different way to market

Telia Carrier’s sale was completed in June 2021 and it took another seven months to reveal the new identity.

Göjeryd says the new brand will be “a different way for us to market ourselves”.

“It is important to play to the potential future, to strike out [to new markets],” he adds.

Göjeryd says the Arelion’s strongest positions are in North America (its biggest market is in the US) and Europe, and it has additional business in Asia.

Now the rebranding is done, Göjeryd says his plans for Arelion are to move into “proximity markets”, densify its network “to get closer to where the users are” and “maybe a few more data centres”.

Göjeryd points to the expansion of entertainment companies, which “are moving to become internet-first. They have their own needs – and that’s where our skill sets are”.

He insists Arelion will not tread on its customers’ turf. “We’re trying to build a solution that can support them,” he says. “We still have the strongest foothold in what we’re known for.”

A bit of playfulness

While the company is changing, Göjeryd says he and his colleagues do not want “to make ourselves boring”. He says, “It’s important for us to stay within connectivity, but we want to maintain a bit of playfulness.”

Sever, who led the rebranding as head of brand, marketing and communications, says Arelion’s asterisk-shaped logo represents a network map and “the convergence of local networks”.

“It also represents a shining star,” she adds, pointing out its similarity in name to Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus. The design company Bold Scandinavia has also turned this asterisk into a spinning globe on Arelion’s website.

A survey of customers says they rated the former Telia Carrier highly for “quality, prestige and professionalism”, she says. “It took us by surprise that they rated us so highly.”

The branding company has also designed a new typeface, Arelion Sans, she says. There is also a version for display purposes that connects individual letters to convey the theme of “keeping the world connected” – a theme being used by other telecoms organisations since the Covid-19 pandemic began, including the Global Leaders’ Forum, the group that supports International Telecoms Week.

Arelion has already found out there is a company based in Bavaria that shares its name. But as a debt collection agency specialising in the healthcare sector, it’s by no means a competitor.

Arelion is also the hero of a series of online games and books. Amazon UK’s blurb for Sword of Arelion – the first volume of Amanda S Green’s Sword of the Gods trilogy – reads: “War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes.” With luck, the future will be more peaceful for Göjeryd’s Arelion.