An Interview With Christian Wollner, Head Of Product Management Mobile World, Deutsche Telekom ICSS

With IPX once again having a dedicated focus at Carriers World 2018, Total Telecom sat down with industry expert Christian Wollner of Deutsche Telekom. Christian was kind enough to give us an update on the current state of IPX technology. Christian will also be sharing his knowledge and expertise at Carriers World, taking part in a panel discussion on ‘IPX and the IoT, an evolving opportunity?’.

1.  What are the key trends you are noticing developing in the industry at the moment?

There is a lot of movement in the industry. 5G auctions are being prepared in numerous countries. We can expect game changers in some countries: new regulatory requirements or new players to the market, for example. This will eventually have an impact on IPX as well. 5G will first go live only domestically. I expect international 5G services including roaming to go live a couple of years later. It’s not clear in detail yet how IPX and the carriers will be involved. But one thing is for sure: IPX will have its role to play!

Arguably IoT is the most important trend in the industry. It’s this second wave in the mobile market. Growth based on consumer demand is limited, as most developed markets are now saturated. With IoT it is different. It’s still a very young market, there are so many different use cases and new ones are emerging every day. IoT is what significantly drives growth in our industry today. Much of it is permanent roaming so it’s very relevant to IPX too. Conventional IPX solutions were a good IoT enabler in the past. They were readily available, which came in handy. But IoT use cases often come with different requirements. Now, IoT has become so significant that it speaks up and demands specific solutions fitting its specific requirements. And we as an industry have to deliver.

2.  Tell us a little about your work with IPX.

IPX is a fantastic universal platform and we use it in one way or another in most projects we work on. For example, in our Inflight Wi-Fi business. With our partner Inmarsat we have built the European Aviation Network, an integrated S-band satellite and complementary terrestrial network across 30 countries in Europe. This will enable airlines to propose fast and scalable Internet access on board. Along with further rollout, we are extending roaming connectivity thanks to IPX, so that customers can easily connect to the Wi-Fi network on board.

IPX is of great importance also in our messaging business. We have seen tremendous growth over the last couple of years in our A2P SMS business. In many cases we could shut down grey routes and properly monetize the traffic. We see that this market is growing further, and simultaneously the Rich Business Messaging market is emerging. And of course, IPX is key to our roaming enablement business where we also see a lot of growth and the growing importance of IoT.

3.  What are the main benefits of IPX? Is the main value of it its universality?

Yes, IPX is a bit like the Internet. One platform provides you with access to all kinds of fantastic services. From anywhere in the world. IPX might be a bit less fancy but the underlying value proposition is similar. One platform takes you anywhere in the world and this platform supports all kind of services. However, unlike the Internet, IPX is not a public network and it comes with its famous QoS. In this area, we as an industry have yet to make progress and provide customers with end-to-end QoS commitments and measures beyond network borders. Also, unlike the public Internet, IPX comes with security and this is definitely of growing importance. 

So IPX provides this universality. At the same time, I see that “one size fits all” is not enough any longer. There are so many different use cases and many of them come with different requirements. If you just look at IoT alone there are so many different use cases. Some rely on IPX as an enabler and they have different requirements than the connectivity demands between people. It is important that IPX delivers an adequate solution to this.

4.  What predictions do you have for the industry over the course of the next 12-18 months?

Data roaming traffic will continue to grow significantly. With "Roam Like at Home" we saw tremendous growth in Europe in the summer of 2017 and now once again in 2018. At Deutsche Telekom we were the first to upgrade our connectivity at AMS-IX to 100 Gbps. Now we see that growth continues not only in Europe but also globally. Our capacity will soon no longer be enough. That’s why we are working on further upgrades.

Blockchain is also a hot topic in our industry right now. It would be nice to see more blockchain use cases with real value in our industry in the next 18 months. There are a lot of activities at the moment trying to demonstrate how blockchain could support the wholesale industry by simplifying invoicing, dispute processes and payments, just to name a few, but my prediction is that the myth of doing away with the middleman will not be fulfilled. One middleman would typically be replaced by another one (unless you want to insource a lot of work). So, it’s not about cost savings but rather about new flexibility and faster reaction times. Preparing the way for blockchain can be inspiring, as you will need to think about how you can make things simpler and streamline them. This step is of value in itself already. 

5.  What new markets are you particularly interested in at the moment?

Personally, I find the IoT market very exciting. It’s not really a new market because it was there a decade ago. You might have called it M2M or telematics but basically, it’s all part of what we nowadays call the Internet of Things. There is so much going on, new use cases every day and it’s such a huge growth driver for the whole mobile industry. Deutsche Telekom is one of the largest IoT players on a global scale. We see a lot of demand for specific solutions coming our way. We also see a lot of external demand coming from other operators. I spend a lot of my time working on enabling IoT internationally and I really enjoy it. It’s something new every day and it always has to be fast.

I also find Rich Communications Services very interesting. I have been involved in this for years. Honestly, there were years where I didn’t find RCS very exciting. It looked like the OTT’s had taken it all and RCS as an operator service didn’t have any perspective. This has changed. RCS now has good chances with deep OS integration and Rich Business Messaging going to market. At the same time the boom times with the OTTs might be over. In the U.S., WhatsApp users will be seeing advertisements starting next year. More importantly, WhatsApp recently announced their price list for business messaging. I was surprised to learn how high the rates are expected to be!

You can hear more from Christian and Deutsche Telekom at Carriers World 2018. To register for a remaining pass to attend, please click here