Adel Al-Saleh

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Pioneers of data sovereignty

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An article by Adel Al-Saleh, Member of the Deutsche Telekom AG Board of Management and CEO of T-Systems.

T-Systems CEO Adel Al-Saleh attended this year’s EMO – The world of metalworking in Hanover.

T-Systems CEO Adel Al-Saleh attended this year’s EMO – The world of metalworking in Hanover.

This week, the world's main trade fair for metal processing companies, EMO, is taking place in Hanover. The event is hugely important in the industry; anyone involved in the value chain for a car, for example, must start here. Every two years, EMO brings together over 2,000 small and large exhibitors, for whom digitization is becoming an increasingly critical factor for success. Most of them are suppliers to other companies, such as automobile manufacturers. In fact, these companies have always worked in cooperative ecosystems, which are just beginning to establishing themselves in our ICT industry. That's why I took great pleasure in accepting the invitation to give a keynote speech at the EMO opening ceremony.

In my speech, I wanted to draw their attention to two key issues for the digital economy in Germany:

First: a high-performance mobile network.
Second: data sovereignty.

In June we closed the auction of 5G frequencies in Germany. The four participating companies paid a total of 6.55 billion for the blocks. As an entrepreneur, I ask myself: What do we get for our money? But even more important is the following: What do you get for our money? It is quite simple: We want the most efficient digital infrastructure for German industry.

Because 5G is not just another network, it will become an essential part of the value chain in a company. It is one of the key enablers for Industry 4.0. Compared to 4G, 5G offers up to 10 times lower latency, 20 times higher peak data rate and 100 times higher connection density with up to 1 million devices per square kilometre.

The industry needs 5G for the Internet of Things, the operation of autonomous machines, digitization of factory floors, and everything that requires real time business management.

5G User Conference in Berlin

One thing I know: We can't build this high-performance infrastructure on our own. That’s why we have been working with top manufacturing companies in Germany for over two years to understand their needs for fast connectivity. That's why we're inviting German industry to a 5G User Conference in Berlin on 27 September for an open dialogue on 5G.

I strongly believe, industry will be the most important driver for the start of 5G. And it starts with so called “campus networks”. Campus networks are central to the 5G roll-out and early adoption of the technology.

A campus network is a private mobile network on a company’s premises. I spend many hours with our customers, and I know some of you might say: “I already have high speed ethernet on my production floor.” But we all know cables limit flexibility. Some of you will say „I do it all with Wi-Fi.“ But Wi-Fi technology is reaching its limits. It’s not fast enough, it’s not secure enough, it’s not reliable enough, and it is not suitable for realtime, wide-spread connectivity. Think about real-time applications for the Internet of Things, think about Augmented Reality, think about driverless transport systems on your premises. You can’t do this without guaranteed high quality. Campus networks addresses these points.

Germany can be a 5G pioneer

We have just partnered with Ericsson, a leading European 5G technology company, to bring Campus Network solutions to our clients. Large, Medium and small. 5G is a huge opportunity for our industry. Germany can be a 5G pioneer for industrial applications!

There is an area in which, unfortunately, Germany and Europe are not the pioneers. I am talking about cloud computing.

Amazon, Microsoft, Ali Baba and Google dominate this market. And to be honest: Even we, Deutsche Telekom, have not been able to keep up with these so-called "hyperscalers".

However, over the last few years the geo-political landscape has changed. Technology and data sovereignty have become very big topics.

I grew up in a business world where Global Economy, Global Innovation, Global Collaboration was the recipe for success. Technology companies raced to innovation and building scale, global scale. But this is changing.

The fear of dependency on others is growing

Data privacy and security is a topic that has grabbed the headlines over the last few years. And although Europe has been at the forefront of data privacy laws, with the expansion of data usage in enterprise and consumer applications, this is now becoming a global topic.

The political landscape is changing, many countries are talking about their dependency on others and their data sovereignty. Global enterprise and global scale as we know it is changing forever. The fear of dependency on others is growing.

The German government is therefore working on an alternative European data infrastructure: Gaia-X. For us, at T-Systems and Deutsche Telekom this initiative is paramount. I think we need a digital ecosystem in which data can be shared with trust and innovative applications can be developed. Gaia-X is intended to connect the individual data pools of German companies and protect them from unwanted access.

I think it's a good idea not to try to copy a hyperscale model. Unfortunately, after 10 years of multi-billion investments, the hypersacalers are hard to replicate. We have to think differently, we have to build Europe’s sovereign cloud and data exchange, in collaboration with hyperscalers where it makes sense. Our solution must be inclusive of different technologies, and our solution must give us the independence we are looking for.

Commitment to data sovereignty

We, T-Systems, are an expert of such multicloud-environments. T-Systems runs the largest OpenStack public cloud in Europe, the Open Telekom Cloud. We are also investing heavily in hyperscalers technology. We are doing this because business environments will never be homogenous.

I know from numerous customer talks that we are on the right track with our commitment to data sovereignty. A great example of secure data exchange and sovereignty is, the  umati "universal machine tool interface" which originated at EMO 2017. Today, Deutsche Telekom is one of the 20 partners involved in this project, and has contributed its Data Intelligence Hub to the initiative.

Our Data Intelligence Hub is a secure marketplace for data exchange. In a pilot project for EMO 2019, we have connected over 100 machines from 70 different manufacturers all over the fairgrounds.

Yes, Europe is challenged by global players. The good news is: innovation and progress never stop! And therefore: We accept the challenge!

Adel Al-Saleh

Adel Al-Saleh

Member of the Board of Management Deutsche Telekom AG for T-Systems

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