Deutsche Telekom sets out future playbook

"It feels like The X Factor," said Timotheus Höttges following nine hours on stage to present Deutsche Telekom's (DT) Capital Markets Day 2021, which ended on May 21.

Whether this reveals more about the CEO's taste in television or behind-the-scenes events over the last two days is hard to tell. Sticking with the TV theme, Höttges also fervently expressed the hope that this year will be the last time the annual event has to be organized virtually and likened it to a Netflix box set, minus the killing off of key characters.

"This was the fourth episode of binge watching the Capital Markets Day of Deutsche Telekom. I'm a main actor, I'm still alive," he exclaimed.

On a more serious note, Höttges attempted to sum up the key messages over the two days. The words "discipline" and "prudence" have cropped up at regular intervals as DT sets its course for the coming years. Another is optimism.

"I'm optimistic about the opportunities around digitization. I'm optimistic about the setup of Deutsche Telekom and its portfolio, where we are today. I'm very optimistic about the team and the attitude, the culture. Deutsche Telekom has evolved over the last years, which gives us a lot of self-confidence to tackle the challenges lying in front of us," Höttges said.

Infrastructure ownership is a key theme, particularly as DT considers its options with regard to its European tower footprint.

"We are, in principle, an infrastructure company, and therefore we should own the network. We are not a service provider," said Höttges."The majority of our infrastructure should be under our control."

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However, he indicated that 100% ownership is impossible. "Our logical step is then to say, here are others who have the same issue of utilization of the infrastructure, there are others who have good technologies in areas where we have weaknesses. Let's partner, let's create a win-win."

Höttges added: "Our network guys, our technology people, they love to own it 100%. They love to control the whole value chain, but that is not how the world is developing and therefore we have changed this paradigm successfully. And I think there's more to come."

On partnerships in general, Höttges indicated that working with others to create a new digital ecosystem is a highly complex task. Referencing long-standing partners such as Cisco and Microsoft, he said that although they are not competitors, sometimes they are also not friends.

"We have opened our doors to partnerships," he said. "How we share the value chain is something which we have to then negotiate, but I would say the last few years taught me that it's a win-win."

The DT CEO was also surprisingly positive about regulation, after years of railing against the iniquities of regulatory control.

"In principle, I would say the regulators in Europe and in Germany [are] on a track to ease the situation [rather] than worsen the situation, which is a good signal," he said.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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