Spotlight: Benoit Hanssen, CTO, Wind Tre

CXO Interviews

Benoit Hanssen has been the CTO of Wind Tre since 31st December 2016. Previously he was CTO of Vodafone Hutchison Australia and prior to that, he headed up the Global Managed Services operation at Ericsson. He speaks five languages fluently.

What is the biggest issue on your mind now?

As Wind and 3 merged, we needed to consolidate the infrastructure, modernise the technology and deliver synergies. All this while ensuring continuity of service for customers. This programme is moving forward successfully. The next challenge is to create opportunities by leveraging our best-in-class network, using technology to benefit our customers.

Which person has most influenced your career?

I am constantly being influenced and inspired by all the people around me. It is through discussion, debate and by observing what others do that I form my own views. And often the people that trigger the best thoughts are not the famous ones, but regular people that battle daily challenges.

By having lived and worked in many countries around the world, in very different cultures, I have been influenced by a very diverse set of values, customs, backgrounds and life experiences. I consider this an incredible privilege.

You have been a disruptive force in the Italian market. How will you continue this with 5G?

For Wind Tre, the journey to 5G started as we kicked off the network consolidation. We already knew that 5G would be coming soon, so we considered it in the design for our new network and we now have the advantage that we can upgrade our network to 5G with a software update and only minor on-site works.

What’s the biggest obstacle to 5G’s success and how will you overcome it?

In my view there are two major challenges. First, there are electromagnetic emissions. This is a technical issue that is particular to Italy. The emissions norms in Italy are stricter than in most other European countries.

Consequently today, in most urban areas, the networks are operating at the allowed limit, before considering adding the frequencies that have been specifically allocated for 5G.

Technically, these challenges can be overcome by adding and re-engineering antenna sites, but this comes at a cost, and the higher emissions allowed in other countries have not so far been proved to have had any impact on human health.

Then there is the business case for 5G. This technology offers several new capabilities that will enable innovative services, including some that will truly surprise us. So 5G will, for sure, create value for companies and consumers, and open up new opportunities for businesses.

However, the question for us telcos is whether we will be able to generate additional value to justify the investments. After the heydays of the late 90s and early 2000s, telcos’ revenues have stabilised or slightly declined. Over-thetop companies captured the largest share of the value that mobile internet technology has created, so will it be any different for 5G?

What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?

Wind Tre has nearly completed the network consolidation and modernisation, and we can say that we have a great network. I am now positive that the company is ready to take on the future with confidence.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Having lived and worked on all continents, and visited more than 65 countries, I have built up a large network of friends with all kinds of backgrounds. When I am not working, I like to visit them, to talk about their lives and their countries – and there are still a lot of places that I haven’t visited…

What single recommendation would you make to your peer group CTOs?

Dare to do things differently and think like an entrepreneur. The role of the CTO is no longer just to implement and operate the technology for the company. It has become much more strategic. As CTOs, we are expected to show and provide guidance for new opportunities, and we need to help our companies become more responsive. Fortunately, and/or unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to do in this space.

Wind Tre, led by Jeffrey Hedberg, describes itself as a major Italian mobile operator and among the main alternative operators in the fixed line market. It is part of the CK Hutchison group, which is Wind Tre’s sole shareholder.