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The summit meeting of the telecommunications and IT industry
On June 21 and 22, Dresden was the place-to-be for the IT and telecommunications industry. The agenda of the two-day conference included numerous expert presentations that examined todays and tomorrow’s issues of mobile communications, fixed networks and digital transformation from different angles. The input of the renowned guest speakers formed the basis for the exchange and discussions among the approximately 200 conference participants. One thing can be said in advance: Interdisciplinary collaboration will be one of the most important success factors when it comes to mastering the digital challenges of the future.
Dresden has established itself as a driver of digital transformation
There are good reasons why Dresden was once again the venue for this year’s connect conference. The state capital of Saxony is considered a hotspot of microelectronics and information technology in Germany. In Dresden the Bosch Group operates one of the world's most modern chip factories, producing for example high-performance, application-specific chips (ASICs) for the automotive sector. The Silicon Saxony high-tech interest group, a technical university of excellence with its affiliated 5G Lab and a vibrant startup environment are driving developments in mobile communications and information technology. One of the current flagship examples is Wandelbots, whose company representatives were also present at the connect conference. Started as a spin-off from the Technical University of Dresden, the expanding company is revolutionizing the programming of industrial robots. In simplified terms, the basic principle is to teach the robots what to do simply by showing them what to do. Using Wandelbot’s technology “robot programming” becomes much easier, writing complex program code is no longer necessary.
On the first day of connect conference 2022, mobile communications were the focus of presentations and expert discussions on and beside the panel. Main issues were the technologies that will deliver on the long-known, ambitious promises of fifth-generation mobile network - especially in the private mobile networks of companies. There was no disputing that software will play an increasingly important role in highly automated networks. SDN (Software Defined Networking) and virtualization common in the data centers of the IT industry will facilitate the use of standard hardware and outsourcing network technology to the cloud. A reasonable way in implementation can be co-operations with hyper scalers such as Amazon (AWS), Google (Google Cloud Platform) and Microsoft (Azure). For network operators, cloud-based networks open up new opportunities to manage their infrastructure more efficiently and bringing new functions and services faster to customers via software upgrades. Compute-intensive and runtime-critical 5G applications require tailored resource allocation (network slicing) and servers available on-site at the companies. Mobile edge computing is also one of the decisive factors when it comes to implement ambitious enterprise use cases with 5G.
Still a hot topic is the implementation of new technologies like virtualization in mobile radio access networks. ORAN (Open Radio Access Network) takes a flexible approach and promises greater vendor independence with open interfaces. There is no question that this technology will become more important in the future. According to the prevailing opinion at the connect conference, Open RAN can be of interest today, especially when setting up entire new mobile communication networks, for example in the corporate environment.
Mobile networks and sustainability
Sustainability is a key issue in the telecommunications industry
"Sustainability is important in the telecommunications industry."
Numerous presentations also showed that the technical development of mobile communication networks must also lead to lower energy consumption and more sustainability. Careful use of resources and reduction of the carbon footprint are among the industry's declared corporate goals. Data transmission in the 5G network consumes significantly less power per transmitted byte compared with the previous generation. In this respect, 5G is a step in the right direction. However, one consumer-driven problem remains: The massive increase of transmitted data volume. But, however, using AI algorithms and machine learning, the load on the network can be analyzed and servers can be turned down if necessary to save energy. Generating electricity for mobile networks from renewable energies directly at the base stations goes one step further. This idea is already being tested with solar panels and small wind turbines. This would even bring more independence from fluctuating energy prices.
The role of operators is shifting
Operators transforming into broadly positioned technology partners for companies
Private mobile networks play an important role in the current 5G business models. Among other things, these 5G campus networks enable industry lifting their production centers to the next automation levels, for example, via wirelessly networked robots. But companies need more than future-proof connectivity. They need powerful, reliable and secure applications that are worth investing in. This has consequences for network operators' understanding of their role: In the future, they must increasingly prove themselves as broadly positioned technology partners and offer companies holistic solutions for their digital transformation.
The complexity of projects requires, among other things, closer cooperation with application developers, system integrators and other key players. By the way, this is another reason why the use of standardized platforms that can provide both the network technology and the applications will bring competitive advantages.
The second day of the connect conference 2022 focused on broadband expansion in Switzerland and Germany. With FTTH coverage of 12 percent Germany has a lot to catch up concerning fiber optic rollout in international comparison. Increased private-sector investment, government subsidy programs and the expansion of partnerships with regional utility companies, for example, as well as open access to dark fiber networks, are expected to inject more momentum into fixed-network expansion. Various experts emphasized that there is currently a high level of financial resources available in the market to push new, privately initiated fiber projects.
There still needs to be done some work
Panel discussion with the Prime Minister of Saxony
On June 22, the Prime Minister of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, visited the connect conference. In a round of talks, he discussed with industry experts how politics and companies can bring more dynamics to the digital transformation and how they can tackle current problems together. One big issue is the long-winding permit procedures in Germany to build new towers. They can easily stretch to the duration of one year while other European countries approve new towers within 30 days.
The biggest hurdles are at present the high dependence on Asian chip suppliers and the lack of hardware and software specialists. Possible solutions include the expansion of regional companies’ production capacities in semiconductor manufacturing, but this will take years. The shortage of specialists is to be reduced by the targeted acquisition of experts from other countries, by upgrading computer science degree programs and by increasing automation.
The future of connectivity
A trip to the metaverse
An internet full of 3D spaces in which our digital representatives interact and in which (almost) everything we know from the real world will be possible. The Metaverse - the vision of Facebook's successor company Meta - formed another content focus of the connect conference 2022. By linking the virtual and real world, for example, expanded global collaboration and new forms of learning by doing should be possible. To pick up again the example of Wandelbots mentioned at the beginning: In the Metaverse, a skilled worker can demonstrate and teach a robot the necessary work steps - even if the robot is located in an Asian factory and the skilled worker is in Europe.
In the Metaverse, the ownership of digital assets on the internet could also be clarified. Technologies such as NFT (non-fungible tokens) and the blockchain are suitable for this. In addition, existing augmented reality applications, multiplayer online games and tools such as virtual reality glasses are already indicating the direction the internet will take. Still, creating this new world is a mammoth task that will take a long time. For example, the 3D spaces have to be modeled. New, conveniently usable tools - ideally for all the senses that also include haptic experiences - must build bridges between reality and the new internet. And last but not least, we need high-performance networks that can meet the technical requirements like significantly reduced latency times for the use cases in the Metaverse. This is also another reason why we will need mobile edge computing and network slicing. According to experts, only fully developed 5G or perhaps only 6G mobile networks will be able to meet all these requirements. The metaverse is also a great opportunity for network operators to offer their customers new services and to shift their business focus away from being pure data suppliers to becoming fully comprehensive service providers.
But on the way to the new internet (Web 3), the willingness to cooperate will be necessary. Accordingly, Meta's call is "Let's build together". This statement not only fits the construction of an immersive parallel world like the Metaverse, but also applies to the connect conference 2022, which focused on the upcoming technological turning point in the telecommunications and IT world.
Thanks to all speakers and supporters of the connect conference
Once the connect conference could only take place virtually in the last two years, it was nice to meet and exchange ideas in person again in Dresden. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the speakers and all those who contributed to the success of this year's live comeback of the connect conference. Our special thanks also go to our sponsors and supporters who made this event possible. If you are interested in the details of the presentations, you can watch and listen to the lectures on our connect tech channel on Youtube.
Sergey Nivens - shutterstock.de
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