The future, in pilot mode: Deutsche Telekom is testing TeraStream, a revolutionary network architecture

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An article by Claudia Nemat, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Europe and Technology


 Claudia Nemat, Member of the Deutsche Telekom AG Board of Management, Technology and Innovation

Claudia Nemat, Board Member Deutsche Telekom AG, responsible for Technology and Innovation

Public discussion of networks tends to focus on the bandwidth available to customers. In mobile communications, LTE provides up to 100 Mbps, while in fixed networks, VDSL offers up to 50 Mbps - with actual bandwidth in any given case depending on the user's location. In the future, two other network aspects are going to become even more important - latency and time to market. These aspects determine network efficiency. Latency is the equipment-related transmission delay experienced in networks; this occurs as data packets move through different network components, such as network nodes (switches). Real-time applications, such as video, e-Work collaboration, and e-Health, have been accounting for ever-greater proportions of network traffic. To function properly, such applications need low latency - regardless of the bandwidth available at the customer’s end.

Network-related time to market is going to play a key role in future competition. The all-important question is: How fast new services can be provided in a given network? In the connected society of the future, households, automobiles, devices of all kinds, retail POS terminals and industry terminals will all be interconnected. As a result, the speeds -with which product features can be modified- will have to increase. The network architecture in place today is the direct result of the network's history. It may be likened to a house that was originally built for a three-person family and then, over time, kept being enlarged, piece by piece, to accommodate an ever-growing family. That development path has defined the great complexity of the networks in place today, as well as the complexity of the processes with which they are controlled. And that development path is proving to be a decisive factor as our networks become more and more indispensable and have to handle more and more traffic.

The time-to-market competition is going to take place largely behind the scenes, unseen by customers. In this context, telecommunications networks will have to become simpler, in order to become faster and more flexible. That will accelerate production control while reduced numbers of network hierarchy levels will reduce latency. In its TeraStream network concept, Deutsche Telekom is combining cloud and network technology with new, state-of-the-art control mechanisms - producing a radically simplified architecture with far fewer network and network-control levels. The idea behind the concept is not new, but it existed only on paper and was seen as a vision for the 2020 time horizon. Now, Hrvatski Telekom, the Croatian Deutsche Telekom subsidiary is launching the first pilot with this new concept in Zagreb. And that makes the Deutsche Telekom Group the industry leader in this area. We want to develop an architecture that makes production simpler and more cost-effective than ever before.

Only with such radical simplification can networks meet the needs of the emerging "gigabit" society. Explosive growth in data traffic, and especially in real-time traffic, is creating an urgent demand for new answers at the network level. Without such answers, the telecommunications’ industry growth would be limited. And entire nations' economic productivity and competitiveness would be limited as well unless networks emerge that can handle the new requirements regarding volume and service applications. These aspects need to be given careful thought by European regulators - since investments in the network architecture of the future are investments in the future of European production.