Big Interview

The new Nordics

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Whether it’s new centres of connectivity or new buying behaviours, the Nordics and wider European continent are changing. So too is EQT’s GlobalConnect, but for Regina Donato Dahlström the changes don’t end there. Melanie Mingas has the details

As the wholesale industry continues to change at pace, many in the space are pivoting to refine their proposition, automate, and capture the flourishing demand.

GlobalConnect is one such player. It was formed in 2020 following the merger of EQT’s GlobalConnect and IP-Only. The GlobalConnect Carrier organisation launched in February, as a pan-Nordic one-stop-shop to cater for Nordic carrier demand.

“We now have one Nordic carrier organisation across all the countries,” explains Regina Donato Dahlström, who heads GlobalConnect Carrier, inclusive of “data centres, infrastructure and the traditional wholesale business”, for the entire footprint.

“I dare to claim we are the only true Nordic carrier, even though we have a wider ambition than just the Nordics,” Dahlström says, although she clarifies there are no plans to lean into the “global” element of GlobalConnect.

“A few operators of larger size had done a more traditional separation between service operations and infrastructure or network operations,” she adds – but instead of following the crowd, GlobalConnect is overtly following buying behaviour patterns.

“I think this is a more modern take on it,” Dahlström says.

“We want to serve the ones who want to buy traditional wholesale, and we will get to that given it is more about self-service, automation, knowing where you have your assets, and just having transparent pricing,” she continues.

Buying behaviours

Beyond the immediate world of carrier and hyperscale buyers, those considered “carrier-alike” and “hyperscale-alike” have also made themselves known, but in future these terms will apply to a very different breed of buyer.

“We foresee there will be other companies, not necessarily the ones we think of now, that are going to have a similar buying pattern,” Dahlström explains.

However, what will remain unchanged will be their demands for a partner to execute the infrastructure projects, own and operate the assets and deliver a tailor-made solution for their purpose.

“They need someone who is attentive to that and, most importantly, somebody who is willing to invest in infrastructure needs, which is an operator’s dream. It’s immense,” Dahlström says. And if the trend develops as indicated, these buyers are GlobalConnect’s next primary customer base.

“We are looking at a certain buying behaviour where the megawatt demand is large and you also have, just like we do on the capacity and fibre side, a relationship with the customer that is ‘hyperscaler alike’. So, they want the construction project, they want a relationship where they do all the service-related aspects,” she adds.

With the dust yet to settle, it can be difficult to predict how the trend will develop from here. Dahlström says that, of the current customer base, Sony fits the bill because of its heavy content needs.

“Sony is a typical carrier-alike,” she says. However, as more industries, services and companies digitalise, the next iteration of this trend may not relate to content or entertainment at all.

“The energy industry is very interesting, and I foresee that they are a next potential hyperscaler subsegment,” Dahlström continues.

Centres of connectivity

The power shifts won’t stop at the customer base. Another point of change is the shift in Europe’s centres of connectivity. The last time Dahlström spoke to Capacity, demand was taking GlobalConnect’s activities beyond the traditional markets of Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin. It’s the well-established FLAP-D market, however, the next acronym to watch is DCOS.

“Dublin, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm,” Dahlström explains – and it will “certainly be live by 2025”.

“We call it DCOS, and we think it will be the new region. Looking at the pipeline and all the exciting projects we are discussing, that will happen. That is a clear trend,” she says.

Rather than being the add-on, it puts Dublin at the centre of the map as of mid-decade. “It’s a given that you land the Nordics in the UK or Ireland,” Dahlström says – because, in connectivity terms, the Nordics will become about more than the traditional Nordic countries.

In this shift, the need to connect the expanded Nordics to the FLAP markets will arise. Dahlström sees multiple ways in which this needs to be done – for example, “down through Poland and to Germany”.

“I also think there is a need to connect down to FLAP in multiple ways, down through Poland and to Germany. So, when I say Nordics, I mean this entire ecosystem of the Nordics. It’s not just the Nordic countries, but this new landscape that we are talking about,” she adds.

Of the current project board, GlobalConnect’s mega-capacity digital highway between north Sweden and Berlin is progressing well, with the terrestrial element in completion phase at the time of interview in mid-April.

Initiated in September, the project brief is for 2,500km of G657A1 fibre to be installed across terrestrial micro-ducts. Although the subsea element has faced some permitting delays, the terrestrial cable is due to be finalised after the summer, satisfying the hyperscaler anchor tenant and generating “new customer interests to the same stretches and the same route”, Dahlström says.

In fact, demand is so high that “we are going to overachieve our own business on that investment,” Dahlström adds.

New customers

In future, the “alikes” will also be buying this capacity and, if energy companies are front and centre of this new customer segment, there could be a very interesting time ahead in how two essential utilities approach the first decades of the digital age.

The present economic situation sees the European connectivity industry focused on consolidation within its own sphere – whether that’s in fibre, mobile or elsewhere – and it is certainly a buyer’s market.

For its part, the EQT-owned GlobalConnect has dabbled in this. Year to date, it has closed on the acquisition of Telenor Sweden’s SDU fibre assets and its communications operator, Open Universe, which it took for €288 million. Over in Denmark it acquired fibre infrastructure from Wizer, with that deal scheduled to close in May.

But at GlobalConnect this current round of musical chairs isn’t simply about buying a few thousand kilometres more in network reach. In fact, Dahlström’s focus is on something entirely different.

The conversation returns to energy providers and the future coexistence of power and telecoms. In their simplest, pre-customer form, data centres need three things: power, fibre and a shell. Energy companies already play a central role in any data centre project, but as of today their power ends at, well, the power. What if that changed?

“There are other big industries in the Nordics where I start to see a tendency for stepping into something similar to a data centre, or fibre infrastructure businesses, power companies obviously being the closest – and they are already in our space,” Dahlström says.

The scenario is reminiscent of Adani Group, with its multi-gigawatt solar capacity and recent JV with EdgeConneX. Their AdaniConneX venture has plans for a network of hyperscale and edge data centres across India, combining the expertise of EdgeConneX and the power generating assets of Adani Group. However, what Dahlström sees isn’t so much a rise in the number of diversified groups and holding companies, but a diversification for energy providers.

“I spend a lot of my time thinking about these hyperscalers of the future and wondering who they will be. I am conscious of the potential risk that power companies might become both the customer and producer,” she adds.

From a GlobalConnect customer perspective, by 2025, Dahlström says, the energy sector “will become part of our business in a different way”. As yet, it isn’t clear how this will play out. However, she adds: “I think energy and telecoms by 2025 will have a coexistence in a different manner from what we have today.”

But that’s all way down the line. As for GlobalConnect’s place in the Nordic connectivity market of mid-decade, if it all goes to plan the networks that bring the DCOS concept to life will be live and the Nordics will be about much more than northern Europe.

“I think it’s good to be aware that competition will not always be what it is today,” Dahlström says.

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