Thanks to Telenor Global Services you can get in touch with family, friends and business partners all over the world through high quality international communication services. CEO Bjørn Iversen explains how they work to make our world of communications smaller and which challenges that lay ahead for this Telenor company.
Q: I know that quite a few people are not familiar with the services you are providing in Telenor Global Services (TGS)? Could you please give us a short account?
Bjørn: To put it simply, we have the ambition of being the gateway for Telenor Group to and from the rest of the world. We deliver all the international services that our mobile companies need. We handle all the traffic in and out of the Nordic countries when it comes to international voice, SMS, GPRS roaming and international capacity.
Let me give you an example of voice handling: When you call your sister in UK from Norway, we have the machinery and switches to transport the voice traffic from Norway through our sea cables to UK and hand it over to your sister’s operator, let’s say Vodafone UK. And vice versa, when your sister calls you, Vodafone UK preferably hands over that traffic to us. We then pay a termination fee to Telenor Norway for handing over the traffic to you.
Q: TGS is a carrier for signaling services. What does that mean?
Bjørn: It means that we provide the messaging between mobile operators and their end customers. When you arrive at an airport abroad for instance, a foreign operator’s network automatically pops up on your mobile phone which you can utilize through roaming. This is happening because we have provided the signaling from your handset and back to your home operator through our sea cables.
Q: How do you ensure high quality on these global services?
Bjørn: For our services to function well, we have interconnected with 200 operators worldwide with physical cables so that we control the traffic as close to the end customer as possible. We know that this is the best way of handling the traffic.
Q: Who are your customers?
Bjørn: We have about 200 operators as customers, such as Telenor Norway, Vodafone Spain, Vodafone UK and so on. But our customers are also partners, competitors and vendors as well. When we hand over the traffic to Vodafone UK they will be our vendor for delivering services in the UK. In situations where they got traffic to Norway they are our customer. On other occasions, like for instance capturing traffic from other operators, they are our competitors.
Q: TGS seems to be quite an international company.
Bjørn: We have partners in 150 countries spread out all over Europe, Asia, Africa and America. This makes us one of the most international companies in the Telenor Group. And we are growing! We have seven offices around the world and 20 nationalities among our 110 employees.
Q: Are there any geographical areas that you are prioritizing?
Bjørn: We are focusing on Asia and Africa. These continents represent great growth opportunities for telecom operators. Both Asia and Africa are large continents with many mobile operators. We want to interconnect with as many of them as possible and our main ambition is to help our partners to succeed in the market.
During the past years, we have experienced tremendous developments in Africa where we already have many customers. Usually we need to trace down partners, but in Africa we experience that operators are coming to us because they know we are delivering quality services.
Q: Do you have the same approach in all the countries where you do business?
Bjørn: Up until now we have delivered services with high quality and with a higher price in all markets because this is what our customers have wanted. In the future we want to customize services by offering different combinations of prize and quality to deliver exactly what the end customer needs on a larger scale.
Q: TGS is one of the leading companies in your field. How do you explain this?
Bjørn: As I see it, there are three main reasons for this:
- The success story of the Telenor Group has made the company well known, even in areas where we do not have retail business such as in Africa. Being part of the Group has been an advantage in marketing TGS.
- Our long experience has also contributed to our success. We have been around for many years and managed to build trust in the market.
- The culture of the company is also been bearing fruits. As a team we work to benefit our customers and have customer focus in everything we do. Our employees are eager to work and collaborate across departments and countries to help and deliver what the customer wants and needs. We are quite known for this.
Q: Who are your competitors? And are new service providers among them?
Bjørn: There are about 100 competitors who deliver the same kinds of services as us. These are big companies such as Orange, Sprint, Telecom Italia and Telefonica. New service providers such as Skype are often our customers and we don’t see them as competitors. When calling from a PC to a handset the call needs to go through a mobile network, and Skype use quality vendors like TGS for this. Besides, calling from Australia to Norway for a two hours talk you wouldn’t use your mobile phone anyway, so these new services come in addition to traditional voice traffic.
Q: How does TGS stand out from its competitors?
Bjørn: We are incredibly quality focused. Our ambition is to control the traffic from end-to-end or as close to the end customer as possible. We invest quite heavily in infrastructure, enabling us to trace each phone call if necessary. If it fails – we know why.
In addition to having better services than our competitors, we are also more customer friendly. Let me give you an example: Out of 1000 operators listed on GSM, a typical mobile operator only has 300 international roaming agreements. If you send an SMS to a person using an operator that your mobile company does not have an agreement with, the SMS will not go through. However, you’d still have to pay the fee. TGS has established an SMS-hub with connection to 973 operators, so the chance of getting your SMS through is almost three times as big as with another company. If it still doesn’t get through, you would surely not get billed for it.
Q: What are the main challenges for TGS in the future?
Bjørn: We share the same challenges as the industry as such. Prices and margins linked to voice are decreasing, and voice has been the most important revenue driver for us all and for TGS as well. To find a new revenue stream is challenging.
Q: How will you cope with these challenges? What are the future prospects for TGS?
Bjørn: The largest growth of our business will be in Asia and Africa. We will deliver more broadband services not only to mobile operators but also to service providers and fixed operators. We will also be an important partner for companies delivering new services.
In the future, the world of communication will be smaller and our services will be of greater importance for the Telenor Group in delivering quality services that our end customers use in their daily life. Examples could be video downloading, securing good services when using Twitter, Facebook and so on. We could be the instrument to secure these services for the Telenor Group.