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To shape and future-proof our technologies and services, the Telenor Research and Innovation unit systematically monitors and analyses trends. We are constantly seeking unfiltered insights, with direct access to original sources. This means we are in prime position to match these trends and technologies with future needs.

Over several years, the world has become familiar with new terms such as blockchain, non-fungible tokens (NFT), Bitcoin and Ethereum. Did you know that the concept behind blockchain technology was first described over 30 years ago in a research paper? Or that quantum computing, another term that has come to the forefront recently, was first described over 40 years ago, building on quantum mechanics, developed between 1900 and 1925? In the world of mobile communications and the Internet, every development is a result of the continuous evolution of concepts and technology, not instant disruptive changes. The challenge is to predict what will succeed and when.

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.

— Peter Drucker

There is an endless stream of news on technologies and breakthroughs in current media, including publications and websites that target technology and telecom network professionals. Although followers of these news streams may get an impression of potential future trends, the information is subject to the interests, competence and at times bias of the writer. Although professional analyst companies typically have deeper topic-specific competence and offer more extensive analysis and of higher quality, there is still a filtering process that affects the output.

Foresight is not about predicting the future, it's about minimising surprise

— Karl Schroder

At Telenor, we gather insight continuously from a wide range of sources: from individual research scientists following the latest developments within their field of competence and interests; participation in standardisation organisations and industry fora; collaborations with international research communities; collaboration with academia and industrial partners in research and innovation projects; industrial partnerships, analysis from commercial analytics companies and technology media.

Combining insight from many sources, we perform in-depth and topic-specific analysis, and we disseminate this insight, in-house and to our customers and partners.

Telenor at the forefront of research and innovation

From an extensive list of topics that Telenor Research & Innovation monitors closely, are two examples.

Artificial intelligence (AI): The launch of ChatGPT has catapulted generative AI to the front pages and into the boardrooms in the tech industry, while drawing increasing scrutiny from politicians and regulators. ChatGPT illustrates the disruptive power of easy access to modern AI tools. The underlying technology itself had already been under development for many years, with the transformer architecture for neural networks as a key research breakthrough in 2017. AI and language models have been on our technology radar for a long time, and we have been gaining expertise by actively participating in various national and international research projects (such as on Machine Transcription of Norwegian conversational speech or Machine Learning for Irregular Time Series research project at Norwegian Open AI-lab), partnerships and initiatives shaping regulatory and best practices. Although it was not possible to predict the exact time that generative AI models would reach the mass market, when it did, we already had solid knowledge and relevant insights for Telenor to take necessary action.

Quantum computing: A second example from our watchlist is quantum computing. We cannot predict if we will see a breakthrough in this decade, and it is uncertain whether reliable large-scale quantum computers will ever become commercially available, or for which particular applications they will be most suited. But we do know that current cryptographic schemes are vulnerable to attacks from a large quantum computer, which may leverage its greater computational power to crack the mathematical puzzles that cryptography relies on. As a consequence, anyone gathering encrypted data today may sometime in the future be able to read the data. This is the main reason why quantum computing is on Telenor’s radar: to build insights anticipating the migration to quantum-safe encryption schemes and monitor the urgency of threat mitigation.

We have many more areas we are covering at Telenor’s Research & Innovation unit, with our experts constantly aware of topics (including 5G slicing, edge-cloud computing, intent-based automation, 6G, Open-RAN) and participating in the development of technology that will change our lives, whether 10, 20 or 50 years in the future, or even just a year ahead.