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Three-pronged innovation strategy

We set ourselves apart from the competition and generate growth in three ways:

1. In-house developments

In 2021, we continued to pursue our current innovation topics and optimized our delivery process, developed new products, and simultaneously ramped up our transformation into a more agile company.

  • Delivery Innovation: Artificial intelligence drives internal digitalization, e.g., in campaign management or with our award-winning Frag Magenta chatbot. Dynamic spectrum sharing helped us build on our leadership position. This new antenna technology enables the parallel use of LTE and 5G in the same frequency band.
  • Experience Innovation: In the consumer area, we commercially launched the linking of a range of Magenta services at home via app and television through home orchestration. Industrial campus networks also reached the market.
  • Capability Innovation: In the wake of our transformation into an agile company, more than 95 % of our employees now work in an agile set-up, which is also having a positive impact on IT delivery. For example, around two-thirds of our IT deployments now take place outside of the traditional waterfall development model.

T-Labs is the research and development unit of Deutsche Telekom, focusing on translating new technology trends into tangible results for Deutsche Telekom’s innovation portfolio. Co-research is the key mission for the team, with the vision of achieving a superior customer experience and exploring disruptive technologies for future telecommunications infrastructures. From our base in Berlin, we cooperate with multiple universities in Germany, Europe, Israel, and around the world.

Active cooperation with universities and academia in general has the goal of turning ideas into action and has been at the heart of T-Labs’ mission from the outset. As a trusted interface between academia and business, we provide fast access to scientific innovation and R&D, enabling various co-creation formations. The T-Challenge is a new innovation format to attract a global research community. Recently, Deutsche Telekom and T‑Mobile US launched a T-Challenge for 5G XR (extended reality) in retail. In a worldwide competition for start-ups, developers, scientists, and designers we are looking for research into and solutions for using 5G networks and extended reality technology to transform the shopping experience throughout the different retail channels. The T-Challenge is designed to fuel new innovations in how consumers shop, using immersive XR experiences in stores, at home, and on the go.

Together with Deutsche Telekom’s HR team, T-Labs’ active promotion of cooperation with universities also serves a Group-wide function, by also attracting talents and strengthening brand awareness of the company in the R&D community.

Our current research areas are future networks & AI, spatial computing, and decentralized systems.

Future networks & AI. Telecommunications networks belong to the most complex structures in modern industrial societies. The techno-economic evolution of these networks follows the principles of decentralization, disaggregation, and automation. Consequently, we research data-driven algorithmic approaches for optimized operation and preemptive cybersecurity in telecommunications systems. T-Labs’ new research activities focus on Open RAN, cybersecurity, quantum technology, and next-generation (6G) radio network technology. In particular, the next generation of digital communication (6G) represents the evolutionary development of current technology and fundamental advances from in-depth research.

Spatial computing. Spatial computing is focused on enabling advanced user interaction at higher standards for various customer segments by using next-generation XR technologies and human-computer interfaces. Our activities in smart media will provide a seamless and consistent experience when using future Deutsche Telekom products and services. Our mission as innovators, researchers, and developers is to create an exciting, immersive world for our customers. A concrete example is the 5G Cloud VR project, which is enabling photorealistic VR (virtual reality) services based on advanced 5G network capabilities, such as rendering 3D graphics on a cloud-based infrastructure. As part of another recent project with our national company Hrvatski Telekom, we conducted a field trial testing live-streamed sport channels with low latency.

Decentralized systems. This research area deals with the distribution of authority over data among multiple players with the aim of making intermediaries obsolete. Corporations and individuals alike have recognized the immense potential of distributed ledger technologies. These enable the decentralization, transparency, and integrity of data, while significantly increasing efficiency at the same time. The goal is to enable trust without dependence on single trusted parties. Some applied use cases within this area are digital identities, digital business processes, digital asset management, and crypto-economics. The latest results were shown by NOMAD, which is a blockchain network for inter-operator transactions in wholesale roaming, conceived and built together with the GSMA and other industry partners.

2. Partnerships

We draw on the expertise and abilities of our partners in order to implement the digital transformation. For example, we rely on the tremendous innovative energy coming out of Silicon Valley, Israel, China, Korea, India, Germany, and other innovation hotspots across the globe. The following are some examples of successful partnerships:

  • Like many other experts, Deutsche Telekom is convinced that extended reality (XR), in which the real and virtual worlds merge, heralds the next major technological revolution. We want to foster this development, which is why we support the Qualcomm open XR developer platform Snapdragon Spaces, which will further boost XR. Exciting applications, ever-improving hardware and, first and foremost, 5G, with its low latency, will be the technological basis for the triumph of XR. In spring 2022, Deutsche Telekom’s hubraum tech incubator and the T‑Mobile Accelerator will both launch new XR programs, giving start-ups, creatives, and developers the chance to work with mentors from the Group to develop and test solutions on Snapdragon Spaces.
  • Deutsche Telekom is declaring war on paperwork. For legally sound digital processes, the Group now provides small and medium-sized companies with electronic signatures using Adobe Sign. The solution has been available in the Telekom Cloud portal since December 2021. Customers can use Adobe Sign from anywhere and any device to manage, send, and archive legally valid signed documents, replacing time-consuming paper-based processes. As Adobe Sign is a service from the cloud, customers are always safe in the knowledge they have the latest version with all of the relevant performance features. It can be integrated easily into existing IT systems, for example Microsoft 365, using standardized connectors.
  • The unified communications and video conferencing provider Zoom and Deutsche Telekom are stepping up their partnership. The coronavirus pandemic has given a global boost to hybrid working models, which call for innovative communications and collaboration solutions tailored to businesses of all sizes. We provide a range of solutions for communications from a single source in Germany and in other European national companies. Both companies are also working on new and future innovative solutions for the B2C and above all for the B2B segment.
  • In addition, the partnership with SoftBank, which was agreed in September 2021, became operational. This furthers the expansion of exclusive digital partnership offerings as part of the Magenta Advantage strategic area of operation. We have already had the opportunity to offer our customers in certain European markets selected partner offerings based on a range of models for cooperation with start-ups and small businesses from the SoftBank portfolio (e.g., discounted e-mobility through the supplier TIER Mobility), and our intention is to expand this option in the future.

3. Start-up funding

As Deutsche Telekom’s leading start-up program, the hubraum tech incubator puts external start-ups in touch with the relevant business units in our Group, so that together they can offer innovative products to consumers and business customers. To this end, hubraum provides the start-ups with seed financing from its own investment fund and targeted innovation programs geared to our strategic growth areas and technologies.

Since founding hubraum in 2012, we have established a strategic investment portfolio of over 30 companies and worked together closely with around another 350 start-ups from Europe and Israel in areas such as the real-time gigabit society (e.g., 5G and edge cloud), the smart data economy (e.g., AI and process automation), and the Internet of Things (e.g., NB-IoT and Industry 4.0). With one of Europe’s first 5G networks and edge cloud infrastructure, the hubraum campus in Berlin offers start-ups not only co-working office space, but also exclusive access to our Group’s networks, product platforms, and test data to help them build up their businesses faster. The hubraum 5G prototyping initiative was continued in 2021 with more specific programs:

  • Campus Networks: Two start-ups were selected in 2021 which, similar to the previous year, will work with hubraum and T‑Systems to develop applications for 5G campus networks.
  • iOS AR Innovation Program: Augmented reality has been a focus area for our start-up incubator since 2019. The Berlin team is now aiming to cooperate for the first time with developers creating iOS-based applications, focusing on a range of industries such as gaming, education, and communication. In late November 2021, nine start-ups from the United States and Finland presented their results in Berlin.

The hubraum 5G prototyping initiative was also accompanied by other programs and initiatives in 2021:

  • Network Sustainability Award: hubraum created this award in 2020 with the aim of making our telecommunications networks more energy efficient. The award was presented again in 2021. The judges sifted through a total of 221 entries, finally selecting 4 winners. Tests are currently underway to ascertain the efficiency of the sustainable solutions and to assess their benefit before they are rolled out. Renowned partners like Microsoft, Orange, and South Korean Telecom were involved in the awards process. At Technology and Innovation, the topic comes under the TESLA program (Telco Energy Efficiency, Sustainability & Leveraging Assets).
  • Residency Program for IoT Creators: With a total of some 150 desks in Berlin and Krakow, hubraum launched its first structured program to provide office space, including mentoring, in the reporting year. A total of seven start-ups have moved onto our premises and are currently working on their applications with the help of the infrastructure and mentors provided. The final presentation will take place in late February 2022. There is a strong focus on IoT, which is why the IoT engineers (Deutsche Telekom IoT GmbH) have an essential role to play as partners.
  • Developer Relations: Developers currently have difficulty integrating telecommunications services into their applications, as the current network architecture does not support it. To overcome this problem, hubraum is currently developing a portal for access to Deutsche Telekom APIs and creating a community for this topic. The ultimate aim is to enable businesses to offer their products and services, including telecommunications services, easily.
  • Accuracy Unlocked: The aim of this program is to investigate how precise positioning using a cloud-based solution can be implemented to optimize existing satellite navigation and to offer applications in both the B2C and the B2B segment. In August 2021, 13 start-ups selected by hubraum and Swift Navigation demonstrated their solutions in areas such as robotics, shared mobility, and the automotive industry.
  • hub4industry: The hub4industry consortium was founded in 2019 with funds from the Polish Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. hubraum is establishing the factory of the future on site, with a 4G/5G campus network based on typical single RAN architecture and an EPC network. It provides a showroom for the many customers and partners who are interested in Industry 4.0.

The following start-ups received investment funding from Deutsche Telekom in the reporting year:

  • MonoLets has developed a particularly energy-efficient, scalable IoT system solution for logistics and supply, enabling real-time monitoring of a range of parameters at item level.
  • PHYTunes solves the problem of poor 5G coverage indoors. It has developed a new process for transmitting 5G signals that bypasses obstacles such as windows, walls, plants, etc.

hubraum will be ten years old in 2022, making it the oldest start-up incubator in Berlin and therefore unparalleled in the European start-up world. A range of further innovation programs, some building on existing programs, is also planned. The programs again focus on topics such as sustainability, augmented reality, and 5G.

4G
Refers to the fourth-generation mobile communications standard that supports higher transmission rates (see LTE).
Glossary
5G
New communications standard (launched from 2020), which offers data rates in the gigabit range, converges fixed-network and mobile communications, and supports the Internet of Things.
Glossary
6G
The next-generation mobile communications standard, likely to use terahertz spectrum (0.11 THz to 0.17 THz) to offer increased capacities and lower latency. 6G is expected to launch commercially in 2030 and is being developed as a response to the increasingly distributed Radio Access Network (RAN).
Glossary
Cybersecurity
Protection against internet crime.
Glossary
IoT – Internet of Things
The IoT enables the intelligent networking of things like sensors, devices, machines, vehicles, etc., with the aim of automating applications and decision-making processes. Deutsche Telekom’s IoT portfolio ranges from SIM cards and flexible data rate plans to IoT platforms in the cloud and complete solutions from a single source.
Glossary
LTE – Long-Term Evolution
4G mobile communications technology that uses, for example, wireless spectrum on the 800 MHz band freed up by the digitalization of television. Powerful TV frequencies enable large areas to be covered with far fewer radio masts. LTE supports speeds of over 100 Mbit/s downstream and 50 Mbit/s upstream.
Glossary
Retail
The sale of goods and services to end users, as opposed to resale or wholesale.
Glossary
Roaming
Refers to the use of a communication device or just a subscriber identity in a visited network rather than one’s home network. This requires the operators of both networks to have reached a roaming agreement and switched the necessary signaling and data connections between their networks. Roaming comes into play, for example, when cell phones and smartphones are used across national boundaries.
Glossary
Unified Communications
Integration of synchronous communication media in a standardized application environment.
Glossary
VR – Virtual Reality
A simulated experience of the real world and its physical characteristics in real time in a computer-generated, interactive virtual environment. Unlike AR, which focuses on enhancing the real world with visual representations of additional data, VR fully immerses the user in a virtual world.
Glossary
Wholesale
Refers to the business of selling services to third parties who sell them to their own retail customers either directly or after further processing.
Glossary
XR – extended reality

Covers the entire virtuality spectrum: augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and simulated reality, as well as potential future developments.

  • AR – augmented reality. The computer-generated enhancement of the real world with perceptual information. The information can address all the human senses. However, augmented reality often only encompasses the visual representation of information, i.e., the augmenting of images or videos with additional computer-generated information or virtual objects using overlaying/superimposition.
  • VR – virtual reality. A simulated experience of the real world and its physical characteristics in real time in a computer-generated, interactive virtual environment. Unlike AR, which focuses on enhancing the real world with visual representations of additional data, VR fully immerses the user in a virtual world.
Glossary