Deutsche Telekom is dedicated to keeping people connected—to essential apps, engaging content and, of course, other people. The company facilitates those connections in more than 50 countries, where Deutsche Telekom has 235 million mobile customers and supports 27 million fixed-network lines and 21 million broadband lines.
Partnering with VMware, this leading telecommunications company is preparing for a 5G future. Deutsche Telekom is transforming its network, developing a new virtual radio access network (vRAN) platform whose workloads will run on a VMware telco cloud. Meanwhile, the company is using VMware solutions to simplify multi-cloud operations and provide enterprise customers with a full array of cloud options.
When the pandemic began to spread across the globe in 2020, the value of telecom connections became clear. Deutsche Telekom saw demand for its network services skyrocket—especially for services needed to support the tens of millions of people who were required to work, study and entertain themselves at home. In response, the company quickly scaled up delivery of services and even introduced new—free—offerings, including collaboration and productivity apps for schools, as well as the Disney+ streaming service for home subscribers.
Those offerings were extremely well received. The company earned its highest ever Net Promoter Score, which reflects the likelihood that customers would recommend Deutsche Telekom to others.
Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom empowered its own employees to work from home. Prior planning paid off: The company was able to rapidly transition 180,000 employees to remote work. “We did that almost in one week,” says Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom. “All the IT worked perfectly.”
The company continued to deliver reliable services even as more of its employees and customers settled into new home-based routines. “Despite the increased demand and employees working remotely, Deutsche Telekom has not had a single network outage affecting its customers,” says Höttges.
Although the pandemic introduced significant challenges, Deutsche Telekom remained focused on its key technology and business initiatives. Building out its 5G network is a top priority. “For us, 5G is the next big opportunity, and that is why we are investing,” says Höttges. The company planned to invest 17 billion euro in just one year.
What can 5G deliver? “One hundred times more speed, a dramatic increase of capacity and real-time low latency,” says Höttges. 5G will improve existing services and should open up some exciting new use cases for business customers and consumers.
To realize the full potential of 5G, Deutsche Telekom required a network transformation. The company is partnering with leading technology vendors such as VMware to help that transformation succeed. Early in 2020, Deutsche Telekom and VMware announced a collaborative project to develop an open, intelligent vRAN platform for both LTE and 5G networks. vRAN workloads will run on a VMware telco cloud platform optimized for real-time and low-latency workloads.
“In a 5G world, the RAN needs to become software-defined in order to meet the needs of CSPs [cloud service providers]. And what we’re proposing with this open and intelligent vRAN platform will do exactly that,” says Shekar Ayyar, executive vice president and general manager of the Telco and Edge Cloud business at VMware.
Deutsche Telekom strives to make open RAN (O-RAN) a government mandate. An open approach would enable operators to combine products from several vendors at the same mobile site, enabling more flexible and cost-effective software-based operations.
The partnership with VMware is also helping Deutsche Telekom maximize the value of the cloud as part of its network transformation. “What we see is a … disaggregation of the infrastructure,” says Höttges. “We see the cloudification of the services…. Most of the steering of infrastructure is going by software, and the home of the software is the cloud. [The cloud] is helping us not only to produce at significantly lower cost, it will even help us to improve the quality of service and the time to market.”
With VMware, Deutsche Telekom can easily tap into multiple clouds. By establishing consistent infrastructure and operations across clouds, VMware multi-cloud solutions enable organizations to seamlessly migrate apps from one cloud to the next while also simplifying administration. “In the past, what we bought was closed boxes, and we paid super premiums for that,” says Höttges. “With [VMware’s] help on multi-cloud … we make cheaper services and better quality possible in the future.”
A multi-cloud approach with a more open ecosystem provides greater flexibility and helps Deutsche Telekom avoid vendor lock-in. “It makes us independent from any kind of vendor,” says Höttges. “We will have more control of the software and the quality ourselves, and at a lower price.”
The multi-cloud approach will also provide more options for Deutsche Telekom’s business customers. “Having alternatives … enables even our customers to select which kind of value-added service they want to drive and from whom,” says Höttges.
By building on a strong foundation that includes a flexible, multi-cloud strategy, Deutsche Telekom has been able to address the pressing challenges of keeping its employees productive and meeting evolving customer demands. At the same time, the company has never stopped planning for what lies ahead.
“Everybody’s focusing on trying to survive in this difficult environment,” says Höttges. “But we should never forget the big purpose of staying connected—that is the most important thing. As we continue to work with VMware, I’m sure we’re going to have success in the future.” ▪