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Interception clouds Deutsche Telekom's pan-Euro network utopia

Kerstin Günther, DT Pan-Net MD, talks to El Reg

By Michelle Donegan

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MWC16 As Deutsche Telekom ramps up its virtualized all-IP pan-European network, dubbed Pan-Net, Europe’s fragmented set of privacy and legal interception laws could thwart the operator’s plans for a delivering cross-border services, according to a senior operator executive.

“Legal interception and privacy are the most critical issues of the whole Pan-European journey,” said Kerstin Günther, managing director of Deutsche Telekom’s Pan-Net, in an interview with The Register.

“If we are not able to work with all of the governments together, there are some things you cannot really provide on a European basis but only on a local basis. And the more you have local, the more expensive it becomes,” she added.

Every country requires telecom operators to provide legal interception at some point in their networks and store certain call detail records locally. In Europe, each county governs its own laws on interception and there is no European legal framework or guidance. For telecom operators, that means having to comply with a different set of legal requirements in each and every country where they operate.

For Deutsche Telekom, that’s 13 different countries and national laws.

“It’s always the telecom companies who are asked to provide data or to allow interception,” she said. “If there’s no solution to this, if there is no common language in Europe, we will not be successful in competition in the global market.”

Compared to China or the USA, this fragmented situation puts Europe at a disadvantage, she added.

“All companies who have a cross-border footprint have the same challenge,” she said. “We need to work more closely together to find a solution, and it would help if the messages from all of the operators would be the same.”

Europe’s fragmented legal landscape is one thing, but the interception issue is further compounded by network virtualization, which is the foundation of Deutsche Telekom’s Pan-Net. When operators want to virtualize network functions, they have to ensure that those functions still comply with legal interception requirements. That’s a challenge for all operators as they move to network functions virtualization (NFV), which the services are offered across national borders or not.

When it comes to Deutsche Telekom’s Pan-Net plans, the main services affected by legal interception laws are all voice and real-time communications, according to Günther.

Nevertheless, Deutsche Telekom is ploughing ahead with Pan-Net and has already started offering services on the new network. The goal of the project is to simplify its European networks. Günther explained that Deutsche Telekom operates some 50 networks for all the services it offers in each of its 13 markets, making 650 different networks in total. With Pan-Net, the idea is to operate one pan-European network, anchored by three data centres located in Hungary, Poland and Greece, that will run 50 service platforms to deliver services across all markets.

The data center in Hungary is already operational. The operator has started offering cloud-based VPN services and has migrated 1.8 million customers onto the new network. This year, the operator will migrate SMS, MMS and voicemail services to the new network, as well as providing virtual customer premises equipment from the platform. By the end of the year, DT will also add voice over LTE (VoLTE) to the platform.

Günther said she likes to call Pan-Net a “killer environment.”

“The world is changing,” she said. “To compete with international players like Google and Facebook and Amazon, we need more efficiencies, which is not only about costs but also about enabling ourselves to provide products much faster to the market.” ®

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