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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 2023, we continued to pursue our current innovation topics and developed new products.

T-Labs is the research and development unit of Deutsche Telekom, focusing on translating new technology trends into tangible results for our innovation portfolio. Supportive co-research is the key objective for the T-Labs team, with the vision of achieving a superior customer experience and exploring disruptive technologies for future telecommunications infrastructures Our current research activities focus on the networks of the future, spatial computing, decentralized systems, and network security and digital twins. From its base in Berlin, T-Labs cooperates with multiple universities around the world.

Active cooperation with universities and academia in general has the goal of turning ideas into action. As a trusted interface between academia and business, we provide fast access to scientific innovation and R&D, enabling various co-creation formations. In addition to actively promoting cooperation between T-Labs and universities, we also work closely with our HR department as part of the Magenta Campus Team to anchor the topic of talent attraction. A multitude of local initiatives with our partner universities, our involvement in events such as the Girls’Day 2023 and Long Night of the Sciences in 2023, as well as social media campaigns, serve to benefit the Group by attracting talents and strengthening brand awareness of the company in the R&D community. With our insights into future technology innovations, we thus also contribute to society by encouraging young people, in particular girls and young women, to pursue the STEM subjects.

In November 2023, T‑Labs and T‑Mobile US launched the fourth edition of the T Challenge, a global innovation competition for start-ups, developers, and research institutions. The aim of the competition is to promote innovative solutions and approaches based on AI for telecommunications, which are presented to an international audience of experts. T‑Labs and T‑Mobile US collaborate closely with intragroup stakeholders on the T Challenge in order to develop specific solutions for Deutsche Telekom. The goal is to strengthen the company’s competitiveness and develop new business opportunities. In the past, selected teams received investment, contracts have been concluded, and promising pilots were carried out.

You can find more information on the T Challenge on the website.

Future networks. The Future Networks unit focuses on unlocking the potential of technologies to significantly enhance the future performance of telecommunications networks. This includes, for example, quantum technologies, which require further exploration to determine their value added for communication networks and how this translates into tangible, real-world benefits. Another field relates to the technologies and concepts for the coming generations of mobile communication technologies which are being debated across all industries, e.g., disaggregation, integrated communication and sensing, and security-by-design. A major milestone achieved in 2023 was the opening of the Quantum Lab in Berlin: a test lab with its own fiber-optic network as a live testing ground where our customers can see the latest concepts and hardware for quantum communication technology and quantum security in action. We are now pushing the conventional boundaries of network technology in respect of security, capacity potential, and resilience through a synergy of interdisciplinary approaches and close partnerships. We also remain dedicated to continuing our work as part of our established portfolio, which is closely linked with the Federal Republic’s publicly funded programs, such as the Innovation Hub for Quantum Communication and 6G industry projects.

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 technological foundation for immersive services of the future. To this end, together with the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology and other national and international partners, we have launched a project on digital twin systems with autonomous, mobile industrial robotics in 5G campus networks. Our collaborative work as part of the 6G NeXt national research project, under which use cases were defined and implemented with network requirements that go well beyond the possibilities offered by 5G networks and which we coordinate as consortium leader, were presented at various conferences including the 2023 Digital Summit in Jena.

Decentralized systems. Deutsche Telekom already began establishing a European identity network at the end of 2022 as a founding member of the European cooperative IDunion. In 2023, together with further IDunion industry partners, Deutsche Telekom put a pre-production network into operation, developed the associated governance framework, and worked on the identity network’s GDPR-compliant regular operations. Many of the accomplishments and technological advancements in the identity field which are now being posited in the EU’s Architecture and Reference Framework stem from the IDunion’s research project and are incorporated directly into the consultation process. Not only that, we also developed the first prototype of a European digital identity wallet and are beginning to see some initial commissions and commercial success for digital identities. Our efforts in this regard play a major role in digitalizing Germany and spreading digital identities to millions of customers.

Network security & digital twin. This unit focuses on creating scientifically valuable tools and methodologies to help safeguard the secure, efficient, and stable operation of future telecommunication networks. Since most of its research centers on the use of AI, the key driver of innovation in 2023 was responding to the “ChatGPT revolution” with the appropriate expertise. For instance, our security research team designed an AI-powered code completion filter at extremely short notice, to prevent sensitive information from being passed on unintentionally. Under the Federal Republic’s CampusOS funding project, procedures for trusted cloud computing were developed which are highly universal and relevant for national IT sovereignty. In the network simulation field, a tool was developed which enables the direct evaluation of AI algorithms for network management. The goal of further developing this work is to provide from the outset comprehensive virtual quality assurance for the telecommunication network. In summer 2023, this unit additionally hosted the international conference Berlin Open RAN Working Week on disaggregated network architectures.

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:

  • Our strategic partnership with SK Telecom reached a milestone in the form of the joint development of an industry-specific voice model for telecommunications companies. We will tailor this model specifically to the needs of digital assistants in customer service. Implementation is set to take place as part of the Global Telco AI Alliance, announced by Deutsche Telekom, e&, Singtel, and SK Telecom in summer 2023. The goal of collaborating with AI companies like Anthropic and Meta is to create a multilingual voice model (German, English, Korean, etc.) and improve our generative AI tools.
  • In the 5G field, we are working with Blue Planet, Ericsson, and Mavenir to demonstrate ground-breaking multi-domain orchestration with open APIs. This is realized through a proof of concept, which showcases the benefits of this orchestration for companies’ services. The feasibility study highlights how enterprises can order a product in Deutsche Telekom’s customer portal, which starts the automatic configuration of a secure, dedicated network slice with guaranteed Quality of Service levels. This slice is delivered dynamically and automatically in line with the customer’s specific connectivity requirements. The 5G network enables the end-to-end service offering to be activated in minutes, from the user equipment to the company’s application. To implement this use case for company services, the partners worked together to deploy a 5G standalone network infrastructure in test mode at Deutsche Telekom’s labs in Darmstadt and Bonn.
  • In collaboration with Google and GSMA, we have developed an industry-wide standard for transferring eSIMs between mobile devices and are the first mobile communications company to use this standard globally. The new process enables customers to transfer their mobile contract to their new device with just a few clicks. All they need is their old and new mobile phones in close proximity to each other. This fast, secure solution takes place in seconds directly in the setup wizard, no app, website login, or phone call to customer service needed.
  • Our partnership with Google has been further strengthened with the aim of minimizing the digital divide and making the most of the benefits of connected technologies. This extends to the development of our own brands – the T Phone and the T Phone Pro. The development of these mobile devices was made possible by uniting Google’s expertise in adapting operating systems and developing apps end to end with Deutsche Telekom’s 5G network infrastructure. Their design was also influenced by the expert knowledge and economies of scale from T‑Mobile US’ REVVL smartphone series. The seamless integration of hardware, software, and network guarantees unlimited 5G access for all users. What’s more, a new T Tablet was introduced over the course of the reporting year with the new version of the T Phone.
  • Deutsche Telekom has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) with a focus on maximum network resilience. Under the leitmotif “Always on,” we signed a memorandum of understanding at Mobile World Congress 2023. Together, we will work on the development of hybrid networks of the future, which will enable seamless connectivity between terrestrial networks and alternative networks in space and in the air. Natural disasters, such as the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, show how important it is to have resilient connectivity. The integration of non-terrestrial network components, such as satellites or flying antenna platforms in the stratosphere, into a hybrid network can take the place of infrastructure on the ground to maintain contact with the people affected and rescue teams. Deutsche Telekom has already successfully achieved an orchestrated 5G connection across different network layers for the first time worldwide.

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 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 from 2021 was continued in 2023 with the opening of the 5G Testing Lab in Krakow. Start-ups and hyperscalers can now test 5G APIs at both sites using a fully functional, 5G standalone core network. These activities were expanded further in 2023 with a focus on developer relations in collaboration with T‑Mobile US. The interaction with developers and the 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 2023:

  • Developer Relations: Until now, it has been difficult for developers to integrate telecommunications services into their applications, as the current network architecture does not support it. To address this problem, hubraum and Vonage have teamed up to support the launch of the Magenta Business APIs. The 4G APIs will enable companies for the first time ever to prioritize certain network traffic in their services and applications on a test basis.
  • IoT Space Challenge: At the start of 2023, hubraum and ESA kicked off a joint prototyping program combining the Internet of Things (IoT) with earth observation data. The areas of focus were environmental protection, smart infrastructure, smart city, smart agriculture, security, and space-based IoT. A total of ten start-ups were selected, and the best six were given the opportunity to present their solutions at the ESA closing event in Paris.

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

  • Audiotool (United States) offers a sophisticated social platform for producing music that runs in a browser and is free to access for music creators worldwide.
  • DeepSkill (Germany) is a tech-driven agency and interactive cloud learning platform that enables employees to benefit from tailored training programs thanks to modular learning paths and intelligent algorithms.
  • Phelas (Germany) has developed affordable and sustainable energy storage technology that uses a thermodynamic process to store energy in liquid air in a modular container design.
  • Salvador Technologies (Israel) has designed a security and recovery platform to safeguard business continuity in the event of a cyberattack and protect operational technology and critical business systems.

We additionally built up the following portfolio of investments in 2023 as part of the Venture Studio – a joint venture of hubraum and Founders Factory:

  • Bondio is a platform that makes it possible to provision connectivity anywhere and everywhere.
  • Wandra offers an end-to-end travel solution for effortless travel preparations and organization.
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).
AI – Artificial Intelligence
Describes the ability of a machine or software to imitate human capabilities, such as logical thinking, learning, planning, and creativity. Generative Artificial Intelligence (also known as GenAI) – as a branch of artificial intelligence – is used to generate new content, such as text, images, music, or videos.
API – Application Programming Interface
A program component which is made available by a software system for other programs to connect with it.
Cloud computing
Refers to the dynamic provision of infrastructure, software, or platform services online. Apart from a high level of automation and virtualization, the services provided have to be multi-client-capable and include standardized hardware and software. Customers source these services on demand and pay based on actual usage. The communication infrastructure may be the internet (public cloud), a corporate network (private cloud), or a mix of the two (hybrid cloud). Dynamic Services is a T-Systems product for the flexible procurement of ICT resources and services.
E2E – End-to-End
Meaning from beginning to end, e.g., from the customer through systems, to the organization, and back to the customer. An action on the part of the customer must result in a response (to the customer).
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.
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.