Becoming a carbon neutral towerco
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Becoming a carbon neutral towerco

As part of TowerXchange's Top 20 Tower Executives Report, Telenor Nordic Towers' CEO Christina Endresen shares her successes, challenges and ambitions

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TowerXchange: How long have you been CEO of your towerco, what are some of your biggest challenges and proudest achievements to date?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: I started as CEO of Telenor Infra when Telenor established its first towerco on January 1st, 2020. This year, I have also had the privilege to head up Nordic Towers, which includes the Swedish and Finnish operations of Telenor Nordic Towers. Our biggest challenge arose when Covid-19 hit just three months into running the new infrastructure company. We had to transition to remote work, which presented the challenge of building a new company, establishing our team, and fostering our culture from home offices. However, we overcame this hurdle, and I am immensely proud of our accomplishments. We demonstrated remarkable creativity in our collaborative efforts and in getting to know one another. Both our employees and their managers played a crucial role in building our culture and defining our way of work. Right from the start, we achieved great results, gaining engaged customers and experiencing revenue growth. This is an achievement that fills me with pride. We have continued to deliver excellent performance and remain committed to finding innovative and sustainable approaches in operating and developing our towerco.

TowerXchange: What is your career history that brought you to your current role? How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: Before I took the role as CEO of the Norwegian towerco, I held a position in the B2B business of Telenor Norway, where I led the customer operations and billing unit. Before that, I gained experience working at a utility company and a broadcast company. Throughout my career, I have consistently worked at the intersection between people and infrastructure. One aspect that excites me about our industry is that we play a crucial role in driving green and digital transformation worldwide. Being providers of critical infrastructure, we enable these advancements to take place. The business landscape within our industry is brimming with innovation and opportunities to operate sustainably. This presents immense potential for being a valuable partner and participating in a growing industry. Joining the towerco industry means becoming part of a sustainable business that also offers growth prospects, making it an attractive choice. Unlike large organizations, we are not confined to a narrow scope of work. When you join our team, you could explore various areas and contribute to a broader perspective within the value chain. Many towercos are not massive entities, which means that you can make a meaningful difference in multiple ways. By prioritising the three Ps (people, planet, and profit), we also attract women to join the sector. It is important to have a diverse representation of women in this industry, which is why we actively encourage more women to join. My experience is that women often prefer companies where they see existing female representation. To achieve this, we need to actively communicate the attractiveness of our industry and highlight the presence of women within it.

In Telenor Infra, we have achieved gender parity with 50% female leaders in our management team, and we have a significant number of women in leadership roles overall. Our current focus is on attracting female talent to technical positions, encouraging more female engineers to join our ranks.

TowerXchange: Both investors and customers are redoubling their focus on sustainability, but it comes in many forms, what are your ESG priorities and how are you making an impact?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: Telenor Nordic Towers is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, and our transition to sustainable operations is embedded in every aspect of our work across three key areas. Firstly, we are focused on minimising our environmental impact by implementing energy-saving measures to reduce our carbon footprint. While we have pass-throughs for energy costs and consumption, we acknowledge our responsibility to address this issue. As a towerco, we cannot simply hide behind these pass-throughs; we must take proactive steps to minimize our energy usage and environmental impact.

Secondly, we prioritise the use of sustainable materials in our operations. We conduct pilot projects to explore different materials when constructing new masts, ensuring that our infrastructure aligns with sustainable practices. By choosing sustainable materials, we contribute to the preservation of natural resources. Lastly, we strive to develop scalable solutions that minimise the need for mass replacements as demands increase. This approach allows us to optimise our existing infrastructure and maximise its lifespan, reducing waste and conserving resources. We aim to make the most efficient use of what we already have, aligning with the principles of sustainability. By addressing these three key areas - minimising energy consumption, using sustainable materials, and developing scalable solutions - we are actively working towards our ambition of becoming a carbon neutral towerco.

TowerXchange: With 5G rollouts accelerating worldwide, what impact do you expect this to have on tower builds and new tenancies? How is your company adapting to the demands of 5G networks?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: Undoubtedly, 5G is a game-changer in our industry, and its rollout is currently in progress across all our markets. Multiple MNOs are in competition to be the first to offer this new network to their customers, as well as to pilot 5G for various use cases, including those involving B2B customers. At Nordic Towers, we have been meticulously planning and preparing for this situation for a long time. We have scaled up our operations and fostered collaboration with our customers, creating an environment conducive to efficient rollout programmes. With the advent of 5G, we have witnessed a demand for updated sites. Accordingly, we have undertaken necessary site upgrades and modernised our infrastructure, aligning it with the requirements of 5G technology. This proactive approach has yielded successful results for us. The rollout of 5G presents us with the opportunity to increase our tenancy ratio, enabling us to accommodate more tenants and further optimise our operations. By adapting to the demands of 5G and actively participating in its deployment, we are positioning ourselves for growth and seizing the opportunities this transformative technology brings to our industry.

TowerXchange: The energy and supply chain shock of the last two years has forced a new look at supply chains and energy strategy, what are your plans for securing your infrastructure for your customers?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: Energy holds different meanings for us. Firstly, it encompasses how we procure energy. In Norway, we have established a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Norsk Hydro to ensure access to renewable energy. This agreement provides us with pricing predictability and cost stability, while actively contributing to the development of new renewable energy sources. Additionally, we are actively working towards future access to electricity. In collaboration with Norsk Hydro, we are constructing wind turbines in Sweden to establish an onshore wind farm consisting of 80 units. We also prioritise energy-saving measures and explore alternative power sources for our sites. As an example, near Oslo, we have recently installed solar panels.

Our observations reveal that onsite power generation accounts for over 40% of the total power requirements in certain cases. This significant finding emphasizes the importance of prioritising innovative approaches to power supply. Rather than waiting for others to take the lead, we believe in actively exploring and implementing such solutions. By securing renewable energy through PPAs, investing in wind farms, and embracing on-site power generation through solar panels, we demonstrate our commitment to sustainable energy practices. We acknowledge the importance of being proactive and taking the initiative in shaping the future of energy supply in our industry.

TowerXchange: Digitialsation is transforming the telecommunications industry, from billing and operations to client interactions. How is your towerco leveraging automation and AI to streamline management and operations?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: While our company plays a vital role in facilitating the digitalisation of society, we are equally committed to leveraging cuttingedge technologies to improve and optimise our operations. One notable initiative involves our exploration of automation solutions for calculating the available capacity at our towers. We are actively testing remote control and monitoring solutions in both Norway and Finland, enabling us to remotely manage our assets across different locations. These efforts have yielded promising results. It is crucial for towercos to prioritise data quality, as having established automation processes alone is insufficient if the data quality is poor. Therefore, we prioritise data quality and ensure that we have accurate and reliable data. This enables us to make data-driven decisions, particularly in areas such as maintenance and inspections. By investing in automation and emphasising data quality, we are enhancing our operational efficiency and enabling more informed decision-making processes. These initiatives allow us to stay at the forefront of technological advancements and effectively meet the evolving needs of our industry. TowerXchange: How are you expanding your offerings beyond traditional tower services and how do you need to change as a business to provide them? Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: Co-location remains the foundation of our business and will likely continue to be our primary service in the foreseeable future. However, we are only at the initial stages of witnessing the transformative changes occurring in our industry. These changes encompass not only the nature and scope of our core business but also the hardware involved. The evolving hardware landscape will undoubtedly impact the infrastructure and its underlying components. As a result, the core products, and services we offer are also undergoing changes. It is essential for us to align our agenda with these developments, particularly in understanding how colocation will shape up in the future. Additionally, security has become a service in addition to our existing core offerings. Our customers require the assurance that their equipment is being monitored and securely protected. By anticipating and adapting to these shifts, we can effectively meet the evolving needs of our customers and provide them with the confidence that their equipment is in safe hands. As the industry continues to transform, we remain committed to staying at the forefront and delivering value-added services that align with the changing landscape.

TowerXchange: What opportunities do you see in new digital infrastructure verticals like non-traditional tenants, private network, IoT, satellite services or working with local governments?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: We have already diversified our portfolio by including a wide range of non-traditional tenants, and we are actively dedicated to attracting and serving these customers for the long term. As more services become interconnected and businesses increasingly digitise their operations, it is a natural progression for Nordic Towers to be part of this evolving landscape. We will continue to engage in ongoing dialogues with our customers, ensuring that we are available as a reliable partner whenever they require our assistance. Additionally, we are exploring opportunities to have more equipment strategically placed by local customers, further enhancing our ability to serve their specific requirements. By fostering these partnerships and staying attuned to the evolving needs of nontraditional tenants, we position ourselves as a valuable and versatile player in the industry. We are committed to providing tailored solutions and being a trusted partner in their digital transformation journey.

TowerXchange: Are you working with customers or governments on any new connectivity programmes to improve access for unconnected individuals and communities?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: We are currently involved in various projects throughout the Nordic region, with a particular focus on the public sector. Municipalities and county authorities are undertaking substantial digital transformation initiatives, and we collaborate closely with them and mobile operators to provide the necessary connectivity for their digital initiatives. The Nordic region presents unique challenges in terms of geographical and topographical obstacles, making it crucial for us to be a reliable partner for our customers when it comes to ensuring adequate coverage. We understand the importance of offering comprehensive coverage solutions to meet the specific needs of our customers in these demanding environments. By working closely with municipalities, county authorities, and mobile operators, we strive to deliver the connectivity required for their digital transformation projects. Our goal is to be a trusted partner in overcoming the connectivity challenges faced in the Nordic region, ultimately supporting the successful implementation of their digital initiatives.

TowerXchange: Since our last CXO Report in 2020, the industry has continued to grow and change, what is your strategic vision for your towerco over the next five years?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: It is crucial for us to create value through collaboration with our customers and partners, and we aspire to be a growing business. Our commitment to sustainability extends to our operations, ensuring that we leave a sustainable footprint. Another important aspect for our customers is their rollout programmes. They develop their strategies, and we serve as their trusted partner in executing those strategies. We take pride in making things happen for them. Additionally, we have a significant modernisation programme in the pipeline. With a history of over 100 years, we recognise the need to decommission towers in the Nordics while modernising our infrastructure and establishing new, contemporary sites. As we move forward, we will prioritise our core product of co-location and adapt to the evolving needs of our customers. As active equipment develops and requires different features, the core business of towercos is undergoing significant changes. Staying at the forefront of product development in this dynamic landscape is of utmost importance to us. We strive to anticipate and meet the evolving demands of our customers and the market.

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