The new telco world: innovating with 5G
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The new telco world: innovating with 5G

Rolf Nafziger Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier (3.5.23).jpg
Rolf Nafziger

Rolf Nafziger, SVP at Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, tells Capacity Magazine what 5G means for the future of the telco business, how customer needs are shifting and how the industry will stay ahead of the game.

What changes does 5G bring to the telco industry?

With the introduction of 5G, we are well and truly moving from a traditional life to a digital one. The changes from 2G to 3G to 4G were incremental and made with the aim of better connecting people in mind. 5G goes well beyond that, enabling data transfer and analysis in real time through its high-speed and low-latency communications networks, bringing the non-human aspect to the fore.

This is triggering a new industrial revolution because it’s the first protocol designed to connect everything to everything, everywhere. With this disruption in progress and speeding up, we need to ensure from a telco perspective that our role is not diminished and that we continue to add to the technology value chain in our fight for a sustained ‘right to play’.

The notions of customer ownership and quality of service are no longer as relevant as they used to be in our old telco environment. Today, it‘s all about value creation and quality of experience. If we manage this technology shift well, it can bring huge value to our customers and industry.

How are customer needs evolving with the technology shift?

As 5G connects everything to everything, everywhere, our quality-of-experience challenge will include having a rising share of non-human use cases, and we need to consider the different communication needs each ‘thing’ might have. Now is the moment for the telco industry to manage this migration and avoid the mistakes of the past, whereby OTT players sometimes managed to take parts of our value chain because they were able to offer a better user experience to our customers.

The same is true for the API business, in which new network APIs are now possible with 5G that enable us to address upcoming IoT and enterprise needs effectively.

Most importantly, our new services must be contextual, meaning that we have to understand our customers’ behaviour, likes and dislikes, and push out offerings that can be customised accordingly. We also need to embrace openness towards our competitors and partners, collaborating where and when it makes sense. Everything-as-a-service has become our new reality, and we need to be able to compete effectively in this new era. We must create efficiencies in our way of working, innovate faster and better understand the ever-changing requirements of our customers.

Why are contextual services so important?

5G is so disruptive because it introduces flexibility to the services we provide. This means that the traditional static customer profiling and offerings for the complete lifecycle of a telco service are becoming obsolete. Instead, we need to provide apps and services that can deliver different types and levels of network capabilities based on the varying situations in which consumers, business customers and IoT devices find themselves. For example, while an autonomous car will depend on low-latency connectivity for driving safely, there is no need to guarantee that type of latency while it’s parked.

This is where 5G network APIs come into play, as they regulate how applications can access the network. Already being familiar with the advantages that such APIs bring to 4G, customers can now significantly accelerate the benefits of 5G because these APIs allow them to easily adapt the network to their needs.

I’m proud to say we have been one of the first carriers to open our 5G network to customers via APIs, and offer testing and direct interaction with it in our move to the innovative role of telco-as-a-service.

We’ve also joined forces with several other operators, as well as non-profit technology consortium the Linux Foundation and the GSMA, to create the telco global API alliance CAMARA – which was officially introduced at last year’s MWC Barcelona event.

When it comes to APIs, we aim to tackle the challenge of telco operators needing to collaborate and create bridges between their various networks to ensure a seamless experience across them and between countries. This is why we supported the launch of the Open Gateway initiative during this year’s MWC. The initiative aims to help developers and cloud providers enhance and deploy services more quickly across operator networks via single points of access.

Can you give any examples of the innovative 5G services you are working on?

As we shift our focus from quality of service to quality of experience for our customers, one thing we’re doing is bringing 5G roaming and network APIs together for the benefit of many different IoT use cases.

These two services can, for example, aid remote global maintenance in a smart factory. Our 5G roaming capabilities enable hundreds of different devices within a smart factory to run smoothly across borders without the need for a SIM card from the local service provider to ensure the required bandwidth and low latency.

Meanwhile, our network APIs come into play as soon as on-site technicians need assistance during the maintenance process. They can use AR glasses to communicate and share their views with an expert anywhere in the world, who can then provide direct instructions. The integration of our quality-on-demand API provides the necessary quality of experience by ensuring that the data traffic for the AR glasses is given priority among the factory’s connected devices, helping to ensure a clear picture and smooth communication.

And how are you ensuring security and reliability for 5G services?

Security is a core value for Deutsche Telekom and an integral part of our solutions. The challenge for 5G-enabled services is ensuring security while also offering the required simplicity and flexibility enabled by 5G. It is essential to bring these prerequisites together. We will tackle this with the introduction of our 5G Service Hub and several proofs-of-concept for the industry to test the new security scenarios, including our hosted SEPP [secure edge protection proxy] and outsourced SEPP trials.

Our answer to fulfilling the reliability aspect of 5G is our Premium IPX service, which offers end-to-end service-level agreements, quality of service and improvements in key performance indicators. These characteristics are important for massive IoT scenarios such as smart cities, logistics and fleet management. They are also fundamental for critical IoT use cases that require high reliability and quality connectivity, including autonomous driving, healthcare, real-time manufacturing and remote surgery.

What kinds of efforts are you making to enable low-latency and ultra-low-latency 5G roaming?

We already talked about autonomous driving, but there are also other time-critical scenarios that require continual connectivity, low or ultra-low latency and high bandwidth, such as remote surgery, patient monitoring and smart grids. Without these roaming conditions, critical IoT applications cannot function across borders in real time, and the results could be disastrous.

We have been trialling regional- and local-breakout roaming, testing one such scenario jointly with Telefónica: holographic communication. Last year, we completed the first low-latency data-roaming connection between Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier and Telefónica Global Solutions. We significantly lowered the packet latency compared to previous roaming scenarios based on 4G and 5G non-standalone technology, while increasing traffic throughput and web-page-download speeds.

And this year, we have successfully tested regional-breakout roaming based on 5G SA [standalone] technology, deploying it in a purely 5G SA cloud-based production model. The new model will enable us to bring this type of breakout roaming to our customers at any location and in any desired cloud infrastructure. It also empowers operators to properly steer regional breakout with policy-control rules to better serve their own end consumers and IoT devices with the new technology.

How is Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier looking to aid lower latency for users on a wider industry basis?

As part of the ITW Global Leaders’ Forum [GLF], we worked together with our partners to deliver an exciting proof-of-concept, which included three separate studies to verify the reliability of low-latency global connectivity between Europe, the US and Asia.

In these regions, packet gateways and local roaming connections were implemented between providers’ networks, while artificially generated traffic was used to test computer-simulated connected cars located in the three areas. An impressive improvement was achieved in the speed of roaming connectivity, with an average latency reduction of 50% compared to routing via the home market.

We look forward to continuing our work within industry bodies such as the GLF, CAMARA and the GSMA, as well as providing our own 5G-roaming and API-network-testing environments. Ultimately, our vision is to encourage industry players to move from passive collaboration to active cooperation in 5G service delivery.

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