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DT: Telcos Must Escape Vendor Prison

Operators are in a prison of vendors, according to Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg, and Facebook could help them break free.

Iain Morris

May 24, 2016

4 Min Read
DT: Telcos Must Escape Vendor Prison

Germany's Deutsche Telekom has urged other telcos to join the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project (TIP) to escape the "prison" that vendors have built around them.

The German incumbent is taking advantage of software and virtualization technologies to overhaul networks it operates throughout central and eastern Europe, but a senior executive has suggested that existing supplier relationships are preventing it from moving as quickly as it would like.

"Typically what happens is that a vendor approaches us with the latest and greatest part and says how many do you need, but if we want to produce efficiently at scale we need a different approach," said Axel Clauberg, Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s vice president of aggregation, transport, IP and fixed access, during a keynote presentation at this morning's Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas. "We need to get out of that jail."

Figure 1: I Want to Break Free Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg urges telcos to get behind open-source efforts. Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg urges telcos to get behind open-source efforts.

Clauberg said telcos must stop being on the "receiving end" in their dealings with suppliers and could play a more disruptive role in the ecosystem through involvement with Facebook 's TIP initiative.

Launched earlier this year, and today backed by some of the world's biggest service providers and technology companies, TIP has been set up to develop open-source technologies outside of the data center. (See Facebook TIPs Telcos Towards Open Source Networks.)

Facebook's overarching aim is to spur the introduction of telco technologies that will lower the cost of connectivity and accelerate network rollouts in emerging markets, but Clauberg appears to believe that TIP could also help operators take the lead on technology innovation.

"This is really the way forward given the challenges we face and the pressure we are under on the ARPU [average revenue per user] side," he said.

Facebook is set to unveil details of new TIP members at the Big Communications Event today, but its current supporters include Deutsche Telekom, EE , Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM). (See Facebook Lauds Terragraph Cost Savings.)

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Through its pan-net initiative, Deutsche Telekom is replacing a large number of legacy platforms serving individual country markets with more centralized, all-IP systems, which will increasingly rely on SDN and NFV technologies. (See DT Plots Pan-Net, 'Answers' B2B OTT Threat.)

Clauberg says the pan-net project has encountered a number of challenges -- both technical and cultural -- but is hopeful that open-source efforts such as TIP will make a big difference in the coming months.

He also praised the activities of Light Reading's The New IP Agency , which has been carrying out NFV interoperability tests in partnership with Germany's European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) .

"Internet companies have DevOps and fully automated testing," he said. "We are not there yet and I'm really happy there are organizations out there like the New IP Agency that are focusing on automated testing."

Such flexibility should allow Deutsche Telekom to overcome one of the biggest challenges of the pan-net project, which is to ensure the introduction of a centralized production system does not hinder the rollout of services tailored to meet specific local needs.

Given those considerations, Deutsche Telekom has already pushed for what Clauberg calls a "split packet core," whereby a centralized control part of the core is separated from elements that can be distributed across the operator's 13-country European footprint.

"We are building both back-end and front-end data centers and we've demonstrated the first split packet core with Cisco, but at large the industry is not yet there," he said.

By shifting to all-IP platforms, Deutsche Telekom hopes to reduce the number of European service platforms from 650 to just 50 in the next few years.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

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