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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 2022, we continued to pursue our current innovation topics, 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 Frag Magenta chatbot. With the rollout of our RDK router operating system developed in-house, the integration of service orchestration, and voice-operated smart home and media applications, we offer an integrated, customer-first home experience which we will continue to evolve going forward.
  • 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, over 88 % of our IT deployments now take place outside of the traditional waterfall development model.

T-Labs – as part of Group Technology – 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 T-Labs team, with the vision of achieving a superior customer experience and exploring disruptive technologies for future telecommunications infrastructures. Our latest research activities focus on the networks of the future and artificial intelligence, spatial computing, decentralized systems, and network security and digital twins. From our base in Berlin, we cooperate with multiple universities 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. 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.

In November 2022, T-Labs launched the third edition of T Challenge, a global innovation competition run in conjunction with T‑Mobile US for start-ups, developers, and research institutions. This time around, the focus is on finding innovative solutions and approaches based on Web3 technologies for a human-centered internet. Experts predict that Web3, the next generation of the internet, has the potential to break the stronghold that current centralized web services have and give control back to the users. This human-centered internet could mark a paradigm shift for the business models of many digital applications. As part of T Challenge, T‑Labs and T‑Mobile US collaborate closely with intragroup stakeholders to develop specific solutions for Deutsche Telekom.

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 cloudification, disaggregation, and automation, making increased use of data and artificial intelligence. Consequently, we research data-driven algorithmic approaches for optimized operation and preemptive cybersecurity in telecommunications systems. T-Labs’ research activities continue to focus on Open RAN, cybersecurity, quantum technology, and next-generation (6G) networks. 6G in particular is not only an evolution of the current state of technology, but at the same time represents fundamental progress spurred on by extensive research in the fields of AI, sustainability, and new services. In the reporting year, Deutsche Telekom took over the lead for the 6G NeXt (Native Extensions for XR Technologies) research project, part of the “6G industry projects for research into integrated systems and sub-technologies for 6th generation mobile communications” program funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Nine partners from industry and academia are involved in the program, with the goal of investigating 6G requirements for real-time and demanding XR applications, such as anti-collision systems and holographic 3D communication. The first 6G networks are expected to go live in 2030.

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 and to lay the foundation for an energy-efficient future metaverse. A perfect example of this is our Eco Streaming project to investigate the energy consumption of components along our media supply chain. Moreover, in collaboration with a range of partners, the national research project 6G NeXt was launched under which use cases were defined and implemented with network requirements that go well beyond the possibilities offered by 5G networks.

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.

Network security & digital twin. This research area focuses on creating a scientific toolkit for studying the most pressing issues of future telecommunication networks: security, efficiency, stability, and complexity management. With the advent of disaggregated network architectures (Open RAN), traditional deterministic engineering approaches are no longer possible. As a consequence, high-definition and realistic digital representation and simulation tools (digital twins) are needed in order to provide a new basis for optimizing design and operation. Working together with partners from academia and industry, our research in this field contributes to advancing areas such as the modeling of energy consumption in Open RAN architectures and the detection of logical conflicts in network management. Security research for future telecommunication networks faces a number of tasks: the extraction of reliable, rapid analyses from ever-growing data volumes, the rapid recognition of perceptible threats, and the recommendation of appropriate action. We do this by developing AI algorithms which take structured texts (logs, etc.) and extract data to look for patterns that could indicate threats and attack vectors. Implicit methods such as these are far superior to conventional deterministic detection. This field is also the subject of two major projects funded by the Federal Republic: Open Lab and CampusOS, both of which are investigating the combined issues of network simulation and security research.

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:

  • We have expanded our strategic investment in Israeli software company Teridion and further strengthened the partnership. Teridion is a leading vendor of cloud-based connectivity platforms. Businesses can dynamically build cloud-hosted connectivity on the Teridion Liquid Network scaled to their needs and available worldwide.
  • In collaboration with Telefónica, Orange, Vodafone and the software developer Matsuko, our goal is to bring holographic communication to the mass market. If hologram telephony is to be realized in the near future and available to everyone at all times, it must work with all widely available smartphones in combination with a VR headset.
  • We also further strengthened our partnership with video-conferencing and unified communications provider Zoom. We provide a range of solutions for communications from a single source in Germany and in other European national companies.
  • Furthermore, we extended our partnership with RingCentral, under which we jointly offer an end-to-end solution for communication and collaboration. The new product is called RingCentral X powered by Telekom and empowers small businesses, SMEs, and major corporations alike to implement remote working. RingCentral, as a leading vendor of global communication solutions for businesses, unifies team messaging, video meetings, cloud telephony, and service centers on one single platform. The comprehensive Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution is delivered to customers over Deutsche Telekom’s mobile and fixed networks.

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. A range of further innovation programs, some building on existing programs, is also planned. The programs likewise focus on topics such as networks, 5G, augmented reality, and sustainability.

Since founding hubraum in 2012, we have established a strategic investment portfolio of over 30 companies and worked together closely with more than 350 further 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). The hubraum campus in Berlin – with one of Europe’s first 5G networks and edge cloud infrastructure – and the campus in Krakow offer 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 continued in 2021 with the 5G Early Access Program, a – hitherto unique – 5G testing environment operated by Deutsche Telekom on the hubraum campus in Berlin. Under the program, the environment was made available year-round to start-ups and hyperscalers to test 5G APIs directly on a fully functional 5G standalone core network. These activities were continued in 2022, and will be expanded further in 2023 with a focus on developer relations in collaboration with T‑Mobile US. The interaction with developers and its systematic analysis by the hubraum research team make a valuable contribution to the ongoing evolution of our API products.

The hubraum 5G prototyping initiative was also accompanied by other programs and initiatives in 2022:

  • 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 developed a portal for access to network APIs and strengthened its efforts to form a group of experts for this topic. The aim is to enable businesses to offer their products and services, including telecommunications services, easily.
  • Snapdragon Spaces: In mid-2022, hubraum launched the Snapdragon Spaces Program in collaboration with Qualcomm and T‑Mobile US to provide eleven start-ups with app development support. The focus was on augmented reality: apps for entertainment & gaming, education & training, and fitness & health. The program outcomes were presented at the Deutsche Telekom XR & Metaverse event in Bonn in November 2022.
  • hub4industry: The consortium was founded in 2019 with funds from the Polish Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. hubraum is establishing the factory of the future in an on-site showroom, with a 4G/5G campus network based on typical single RAN architecture and an EPC network. In 2022, consortium members hubraum and T‑Mobile Polska qualified for the EU project European Digital Innovation Hubs, which was set up to support digital transformation in small and medium-sized enterprises in Poland.

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

  • inStreamly (Poland) operates an interactive, scalable platform that places ad content with thousands of micro-streamers simultaneously.
  • Hype Labs (United States, Portugal) is developing a decentralized telecommunications platform on which individual devices can connect up to form a mesh network with no need for internet or infrastructure.
  • tagSpace (Australia) offers a platform for users to place augmented reality content at any location, no coding required.

We also founded Venture Studio – a joint venture of hubraum and Founders Factory – to invest in start-ups which are active in certain other areas of relevance to us.

Refers to the fourth-generation mobile communications standard (see LTE).
Refers to the mobile communications standard launched in 2020, which offers data rates in the gigabit range, mainly over the 3.6 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands, converges fixed-network and mobile communications, and supports the Internet of Things.
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).
API – Application Programming Interface
A program component which is made available by a software system for other programs to connect with it.
Security against internet crime.
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.
A coupling element that connects two or more sub-networks. Routers can also extend the boundaries of a network, monitor data traffic, and block any faulty data packets.
Unified Communications
Integration of synchronous communication media in a standardized application environment.
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.
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.