We had the pleasure of interviewing Vodafone’s Kerstin Larsson-Knetsch ahead of next week’s Connected Germany, taking place in Mainz on April 5-6
Can you introduce yourself and your role?
My name is Kerstin Larsson-Knetsch, I am responsible for consulting and solution design at Vodafone Business Germany. Staying true to our motto "Co-Create. Digital. Future" my team and I co-create digital and innovative solutions with our enterprise customers. Part of our portfolio are 5G solutions, which we implement in all kinds of industries (e.g. automotive, media, smart factory and health).
What have been the biggest developments in Germany’s rollout of next-gen mobile communication networks over the last year?
The 5G rollout in Germany started in 2019 with the first 5G call by Vodafone Germany’s CEO Hannes Ametsreiter. Since then, we have seen the fastest rollout of a new mobile network generation so far. Today, over 45 Mio people in Germany already benefit from 5G Giga-speed which means that the original rollout targets have been exceeded. Germany now holds a leading position in Europe and the network is growing fast.
However, 5G coverage and speed is just one dimension. We also need to fully exploit the technological possibilities of 5G as fast as we can. What do I mean by that? So far, most of the 5G network in Germany is based on "non standalone" (NSA) 5G technology. This means that while the radio antennas are already 5G, the underlying core network is still based on 4G technology. However, true 5G game changers like slicing or ultra-low latency can only be achieved with a full standalone 5G network. Therefore, Vodafone Germany just launched 5G standalone as the first operator in Europe in hundreds of locations and cities and we will constantly grow our footprint.
Another important aspect of 5G are mobile private networks (MPNs) for our enterprise customers. This is a step change for many industries as MPNs help to simplify the network environment and connect production systems in a much more flexible way. Just look at our ‘Vodafone Redbox’, which is a complete network-in-a-box that can be deployed easily and keeps data save at the customer’s premise.
Overall, the pandemic has underlined the importance of a strong fixed and mobile network infrastructure as the backbone for society, digitalisation, innovation and future success. It is key that all responsible parties – politics and regulation, MNOs, hardware vendors and other players – work together even more effectively to bring us to the top.
How should connectivity for enterprises continue to evolve within Germany?
Over the last two years, we have seen a high interest in 5G from our business customers. We have conducted a range of "proofs-of concept" with customers from different industries, such as testing autonomous driving with customers like Porsche at our 5G mobility lab in Aldenhoven near Aachen. We see amazingly innovative ideas and concepts. The university hospital in Düsseldorf is building a 5G hospital campus. One of the many impressive use cases utilizes augmented reality to provide 3D animations of organs for doctors to improve surgery and diagnostics. We also see a lot of activity in the agricultural sector where 5G combined with IoT and AI can help to increase harvest yield while at the same time contribute to environmental protection. These are great examples of how 5G can contribute to overcome some of the most pressing challenges of our time like climate crisis, health, nutrition or mobility.
The 5G ecosystem matures and therefore we will see much more innovation for instance more devices will become available. Slicing will be a major driver: Companies will be able to apply different parts of the network to different use cases in their factory – for example one slice could be used for AGVs, another for video surveillance. Our vision is to allow customers to simply rent a network service for a certain time on a website, for example when they need specific coverage for a construction site. We are building the prerequisites for network-as-a-service to orchestrate network capability and on-top-services so that customers can manage their connectivity demand much more flexibly.
Many of these ideas are being developed together with customers and partners in our 5G labs and in the future also in our new R & D centre in Dresden. I strongly believe that innovation comes from collaboration and co-creation.
What are you most looking forward to at Connected Germany?
After two years of mainly remote meetings, I look forward to networking and meeting people from the industry in person, being inspired and coming home with new ideas and contacts.