Telenor coughs up $10 million for AWS 'sovereign' cloud services

Norwegian incumbent Telenor's hopes of stimulating homegrown alternatives to US hyperscalers appears to be fading.

Nick Wood

June 18, 2024

3 Min Read

The telco has just agreed an expanded partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) that will see the latter's sovereign-by-design solutions put to use in Telenor's Skygard data centres.

Telenor, together with its partners – a local renewable energy firm called Hafslund, Norwegian energy-centric investor HitecVision, and Analysys Mason – broke ground on the first site in Hovinbyen, Oslo in March.

To underscore the joint venture's commitment to security and sovereignty, they hired Elise Lindeberg, former director of security at the Norwegian Communications Authority, to be Skygard's first CEO.

Security and sovereignty were front of mind when the JV was first established back in June last year.

It was launched in response to the Norwegian security authorities' request for domestic data centres and cloud services to handle sensitive information, functions, and infrastructure of importance to Norway's national security interests.

There was also a faint hope that Skygard would increase the possibility that digital services would be produced within Norway, giving a greater degree of national control, and better safeguarding of functions critical to society.

That might still prove to be the case, but it seems that any applications that do emerge will rely on the familiarity and ubiquity that comes with a US hyperscaler that has the breadth and depth of AWS, rather than anything truly homegrown.

Under the partnership, Telenor will spend around NOK100M ($9.4 million) during the first year of the partnership to deploy AWS at Skygard.

The two have also pledged to collaborate on solutions pitched at Norwegian enterprise customers with a focus on meeting their sovereignty and security needs. Telenor will also consider using AWS' sovereign-by-design cloud infrastructure to host its internal workloads in compliance with Norwegian regulatory requirements.

"Telenor is strengthening its collaboration with AWS to power our next wave of growth and innovation," said Telenor CTO and EVP Amol Phadke. "Building on our sovereign cloud posture, Telenor will unlock new opportunities to drive value for our customers and wider society."

The partnership also extends to Telenor's cloud operations in Sweden and Finland.

"Telenor and AWS have a shared commitment to innovation," said Jan Hofmeyr, VP of AWS elastic compute cloud (EC2) edge. "We are excited to strengthen our collaboration by accelerating Telenor's cloud transformation on AWS, and modernise Telenor's data centres with AWS infrastructure, starting with Sweden and Finland."

Telenor is very keen to emphasis the point that it is using AWS solutions that are 'sovereign-by-design' in hopes of some patriotic point-scoring, but all that really means is that Telenor is using AWS.

AWS has been sovereign by design for years, giving customers control over the storage and movement of their data to help with data residency compliance.

All that changed was governments got more paranoid about digital sovereignty, so AWS formalised this already well-established practice by dressing it up in something a bit more showbiz: the 'Digital Sovereignty Pledge'.

It means the US hyperscaler can carry on trying to dominate the global public cloud market while minimising the risk of discomfiting any hawkish regulators. It seems to have done the trick in Norway.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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