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Annual report 2023: Strategy and business review

Erillisverkot updated its strategy in 2023. The updated strategy was published for the personnel in October and for customers and stakeholders in December. We wanted to analyse the strategy more thoroughly because of the major changes in the operating environment. The changing security context, more stringent economic development and accelerating technological development were important background factors. Finland’s membership in NATO also impacted the company’s willingness to update the strategy.

Our strategic aim is to develop and secure critical ICT services

Our vision is to be an impactful and brave security provider in society. The special purpose of Erillisverkot as a provider of critical telecommunications and ICT services did not change with the new strategy. However, the company wants to ensure the impact resistance of its services and is aiming for a more effective role as a state ICT operator. The mission of Erillisverkot is to “build Finland safer by being a trusted partner for our customers under all circumstances”.

The company worked on the new strategy systematically, both with the Board of Directors and the executive team. The personnel and customers were also heard during the process. The strategy has four main pillars on which the concrete measures are built:

  • Impactful services
  • Good people
  • Brave leadership
  • Fresh brand

Customer orientation is an important starting point for all strategic pillars. In addition to contingency and security, the strategy highlights responsible services and operating methods, personnel well-being and strengthening the corporate culture of Erillisverkot. The brand has been integrated into the strategy for the first time.

The network operator services business area serves as a high-contingency network operator for the customers of the public safety network Tuve. The business is based on established and efficient operating models and processes, which ensure that the public safety network can operate under normal conditions, during incidents and during emergencies.

A new information system platform was taken into production use in 2023. One of the new key systems is the ERP system, which is used in all phases, from submitting the order to the delivery, as well as in service maintenance. The system also supports customer self-service functions. In addition, the system enables new customer service functions and advanced reporting. System migrations to the new platform will continue in 2024.

The development of the network and technologies continued according to the long-term plan. The development programme both meets the growing capacity needs of customers and improves the quality of the services, contingency, and security.

The coverage of the service platform and new customer interface points were implemented together with customers, within the agreed scope and schedule. Extending the use secures comprehensively secure communications among all users cost-efficiently. Secure and reliable data connections are a key prerequisite for the customers of the public safety network.

Another important event during the year was the retirement of our long-standing COO Ismo Viljanen in October.

Because of the security situation, we enhanced the contingency and operational reliability of the current public safety network Virve. We prepared an investment plan that is based on the funding allocated in the state budget, and we assessed the need for contingency measures together with the Virve users. We also started implementing the investment plan. The tightened security situation was also taken into account in the internal operations of Erillisverkot, in drills and in the cooperation with Virve user organisations.

We have supplied Virve 2 data connections that are equipped with priority functions to the authorities since late 2022, and in 2023, we continued to build the broad-band Virve 2 communications services. Virve 2 subscriptions use the highest priority on the market, ensuring the high level of availability and reliability of the Virve services also in the future.

The production capabilities of Virve 2 took notable leaps. In the first half of 2023, we launched Virve Paketti, which will replace the current Virve services. Virve Paketti includes prioritised broadband data, group communications and voice services. The group communications service supports communication between the current network and Virve 2, enabling a smooth transition from Virve to Virve 2.

During the year, we also implemented IoT interfaces and a few different Virve 2 terminal models. The field testing of broad-band group communications services continued, and we also started user testing. The building of Virve 2 terminal management and the SIM card management environment progressed.

The Virve 2 project plan was updated in summer 2023, in particular, with regard to the transition period activities. The implementation of the new service in close cooperation with the authorities and other user organisations is a crucial part of the project. During the year, the Erillisverkot project team produced support material for the implementation and user support of Virve 2, including in the areas of financial planning, reporting and testing. The user organisations prepared Virve 2 implementation plans, in accordance with the guidance letter by the Ministry of Finance and based on the instructions provided by Erillisverkot.

In the near future, the Virve user organisations will test and pilot the Virve 2 service, after which the users can start using the new services. The aim is to implement the Virve 2 service in close cooperation with the customers by the end of 2028. During the transitional phase, the current Virve and Virve 2 will work alongside one another, and the group communications services will work together to support a smooth transition.

When developing the operational reliability of Virve 2, we looked for a way of improving the back-up operation time that would be suitable functionally, technically, economically and procurement-wise. Towards the end of the year, we made notable progress in this.

In addition, we continued close international cooperation, the most notable example of which is the cooperation between Nordic authority operators. The cooperation enables us to impact, for example, the terminal market, making terminal devices that are suitable for field use available on the market.

The secure cloud service by Erillisverkot, which is produced entirely in Finland, reached important milestones in 2023. We reached the necessary compliance level for TL4, Katakri and Tuve requirements, and the Ministry of Finance issued its decision based on this. This enables connecting the information systems in the secure cloud to the public safety network.

The technical platform, management and monitoring environment needed for producing the service, as well as the processes were developed systematically throughout the year. With the implementation of the second data centre, we could offer geographical mirroring for customer loads and back-ups. The development continues in early 2024, in addition to which we will assess various areas internally and ensure the coverage of corrective actions through external audits. Thanks to these measures, we can apply for a new temporary connection decision for the secure cloud services in spring 2024.

Erillisverkot and Valtori have signed a cooperation agreement that is based on the cooperation related to operational, capacity and mobile management services under the Ministry of Finance. The cooperation also covers providing the secure cloud service for the public safety network for Tuve customers and other customers, regardless of their sector. In the partnership, Erillisverkot is Valtori’s subcontractor. Alongside the cooperation with Valtori, Erillisverkot also continues its traditional direct partnerships with its current and new customers.

Erillisverkot launched a procurement on the implementation of a new cloud platform solution with its own telecommunications solutions for the data centres it manages and on the production of operation services for the current secure cloud solution. The aim of this is to ensure the cost-effectiveness and scalability of the secure cloud service, as well as the ability to implement the service, so that we can respond to customer needs and enable the use of public cloud services via the same service. This promotes the transition of central government services to the cloud. The agreements under the procurement and tendering project were signed at the start of 2024.

LionCloud1, the predecessor of the secure cloud was decommissioned in summer 2023 after transferring the customers to the new secure cloud platform. Customers that were not in-house entities were also transferred to the service platform of Cinia Oy as a result of an acquisition.

In addition to developing technologies, the long-term technology roadmap of the secure cloud service and plans for 2030 take into account energy efficiency, AI, growing computation capacity and contingency for new kinds of threats.

The properties business of Erillisverkot and the services related to the renting and maintenance of underground colocation centres and business premises are managed by Leijonaverkot Oy, a subsidiary of Erillisverkot. There are altogether 18 properties across Finland.

Underground colocation centres are the backbone of the Leijonaverkot property portfolio. The colocation centres include telecommunications production, data centres and facilities, as well as infrastructure that serves these. The certified services, mirrored systems and continuous testing ensure the continuity and security of the operations. Particular attention has been paid to the energy efficiency and zero emissions target of the properties, and investments to support these will continue in 2024. The investments so far have targeted, for example, the utilisation of waste heat, heat pump projects, the construction of a solar power plant, and facade repair projects.

The customer base of Leijonaverkot continued to expand. One of the most important reasons behind this is the tightened security situation that has pushed companies and authorities to prepared more carefully for the future. Companies have understood the need to ensure the continuity of their critical functions under secure conditions. This can be seen in the growing demand for high security premises, which we offer to both personnel and ICT systems. Investments in security and contingency have become an integral element of the strategies of many companies and authorities.

The structural transformation of telecommunication and the reduced need for space have enabled using the freed up space for new purposes. Leijonaverkot has implemented new premises and data centres in the space freed up from the underground facilities. This has been cost efficient, as the new operators can utilise the existing security and continuity systems.

The properties owned by the company are also special-purpose properties. All of them contain functions that are critical for the society’s telecommunications, special connections and systems related to ensuring continuity, such as back-up power systems that secure operations in the event of a power outage. Our customers who operate in normal facilities can use these special features of the properties, and our customers include many societal and public operators.

In 2023, we made more investments in the colocation centres than ever before. Some of the investments were related to building new customer premises, such as data centres, telecommunications centres or secure premises. Some of them involved renewing or expanding existing systems. Examples of investments aimed at improving security include the renewal of the security systems in different properties and the updating of the civil defence equipment.

The security, contingency and accessibility of the colocation centres remained high. We paid particular attention to preparing for incidents, for example, through tests and drills that covered new threat scenarios.

The recent changes in the operating environment, first with the COVID-19 pandemic and later with the Russian attack on Ukraine, have significantly increased the need for situational awareness in management and systems that support this. Krivat is a situational awareness system and collaboration platform maintained by Erillisverkot. Krivat is also a cooperation concept that improves collaboration in society across administrative levels and sectors. Krivat provides management centres and control rooms with a communication and situational awareness environment to speed up recovery from disruptions.

The most important Krivat event in 2023 was the Tuve approval of the service with a temporary implementation decision. The decision establishing Krivat’s position as the official situational awareness service means that also critical security authorities can become Krivat users.

In addition, the renewal of the Krivat management model was launched towards the end of 2023 and it is due for completion in early 2024. The management model will improve the Krivat service development and extend the use of the service to different sectors of society.

Society is undeniable dependent on functional infrastructure. When there is a need to make plans, apply for location permits, construct or demolish, it is important to analyse the location information of cables before starting the work. Often, the analysed sites already have existing infrastructure in the air, below ground and in water bodies, as hundreds of thousands of kilometres of infrastructure have been installed over the past decades. The location information of cables service covers all network types, including electricity, communications, natural gas, water supply, traffic and district heat networks.

The location information of cables service handled hundreds of thousands of events in 2023, including both location analyses and physical joint mapping service. The accelerating construction of underground optical cables has also increased the analysis of location information in the service. The location information of cables does its part in preventing damage to the critical infrastructure in society.

Our service continued to grow in 2023 and, for example, our wind power and optical fibre sectors received new customers. In addition, we have continued and expanded our strong expertise and cooperation with the authorities.

The increased importance of security, cyber security in particular, was evident in the enhanced situational awareness monitoring and increased cooperation and knowledge sharing between key stakeholders.

We brought our technological development and security (incl. cyber security) experts together to the new Technology and security unit. This will make our operations more cost efficient and improve the use of resources. It will also ensure that security and cyber security are taken into account in the research and development of technology. Despite the short time of operation, the benefits of the centralised unit can be clearly seen already.

In the trend review of security critical technologies, we analysed why the transition of authorities to the 5G era has taken so long: the adoption of new technology is complicated by the special requirements posed by the security-critical operating environment, such as those relating to information security, availability and reliability of services, and contingency preparedness.

Together with Traficom, we continued to develop the Galileo PRS service that is used for satellite positioning. The operational model for the role of private network (i.e. our own mobile network solutions) as part of the Virve 2 business was completed. In addition, we monitored technological development in different business areas on a continuous basis, participated in the standardisation of critical communications and collaborated continuously with other critical communication operators.

The operations of Erillisverkot is greatly important for society, and it has an effect on several stakeholders. We want to engage in active and open dialogue with both our customers and other stakeholders. In the future, we want to be even more influential in society and a thought leader in the field of critical ICT.

The starting point for our communications is that everyone at Erillisverkot is a communications expert that promotes the company’s targets through their own action. In 2023, the company started renewing its brand, aiming for a brand that is reliable, stands out and represents the company’s values. The brand represents our services and operations, both for the customers and personnel. In connection with the renewal, we strengthened our brand-based management and created a modern brand manual that is in line with our strategy and easy to implement for everyone at Erillisverkot. The brand manual will be implemented in practice in spring 2024.

In 2023, Erillisverkot was one of the organisers of the international Critical Communications World (CCW) 2023 event. This was the first time when the event was held in Finland, and it attracted a record-breaking number of participants, 6,000, to Messukeskus. Erillisverkot held its customer and technology event in connection with the CCW. In addition, in November the company organised the Erillisverkot Forum (NPS 84), an event for decision-makers and influencers, at Pikku-Finlandia in Helsinki. We also attended various customer events and fairs, such as the Kuntamarkkinat fair of municipalities and State Expo.

Due to the special purpose and societal position of Erillisverkot, we receive statement requests related to, for example, various security and public safety network themes, as well as on other topical questions in the sector. We prepare the statements and opinions carefully. It is important for us that the statements are aligned with our special purpose and business policies and that our communications are clear, consistent and based on facts.

Sidosryhmien odotukset 2023 -taulukossa kuvataan Erillisverkkojen keskeisiä sidosryhmiä, niiden odotuksia sekä esimerkkejä toimenpiteistä ja sidosryhmien kokemusten seurannasta.

We use the channels described in the table in the communications related to critical concerns among stakeholders. In addition, our stakeholders have access to a whistleblowing channel. The concerns raised in the customer experience survey have been discussed by the group’s management.

Erillisverkot uses a strategic account management model that guides cooperation with our framework agreement customers. The model enables thorough and regular cooperation that ensures a high level of service for the customer. Continuous development is part of the model, aimed at meeting the customer’s needs in a timely manner.

Erillisverkot implemented its annual customer experience survey in September and October. A total of 401 persons responded to the survey. The Net Promoter Score, NPS, rose to an excellent score of +48 (+43 in 2022).

The survey also revealed that 55 per cent of the respondents know Erillisverkot and its services well, which is an important asset in maintaining customer loyalty. Reliability and sustainability are still features commonly associated with Erillisverkot. Public safety network Virve is our best known service.

Our Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) for customer service remained at 76 points (76 in 2022), and the CSI for services increased to 77 points (2022: 74). Customer service speed and the updating of services were identified as the most important areas of development in the survey.


Read more about our year 2023

The year 2023 will be remembered for changes in the security environment, for Finland’s membership in NATO and for the increased level of contingency.

One of the most important drivers has been the strengthening of security and contingency and, on the other hand, the acceleration of technological development.

The sustainability work in 2023 was still motivated by the Russian attack on Ukraine and preparedness for a potential energy crisis and power outages.

Erillisverkot updated its sustainability strategy and programme in autumn 2023. We produce the services in a manner that is sustainable environmentally, socially and from the point of view of governance.