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Legacy Hinders Operators' Innovation

Legacy hinders innovation and innovation is crucial to success, top telecoms executives told event attendees at last week's Broadband World Forum.

Operators must "throw away a lot of legacy," said Franz Seiser, Vice President of Core Network and Services at Deutsche Telekom. "It’s difficult to do, but once you’ve done it you wish you had done it sooner. In our industry legacy hinders us."

In fact, innovation is vital "for survival," said Antonio Elizondo, head of Network Virtualization Strategy & Technology at Telefónica.

Speaking at a session on virtualization, Elizondo described the growth of over-the-top (OTT) services on Telefónica's networks as a fundamental factor in its drive for innovation, especially in network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networks (SDN).

"We saw a lot of OTT players making money off our network, [something] that we couldn’t do," he explained. "We needed a more flexible network underpinned by virtualization."

Flexibility is crucial, Seiser agreed.

"We need highly flexible, scalable and efficient networks to fulfill demands regarding low latency scalability and efficiency. The only thing the industry in working on in terms of 5G today is mobile broadband," he said. "That’s good because we’ll get something we can deploy soon, but the big question is what’s happening afterwards. Are we able to fundamentally change? If not we may look back on 5G in a few years the same way we look back on 3G today. We really need to take more innovative and disruptive approaches."

Both Seiser and Elizondo see the provider's role as bigger than their own operator's infrastructure deployments. Rather, it's a move toward a robust network for the future.

Deutsche Telekom launched the first 5G connection on their network in Berlin two months ago, and Seiser was very optimistic about the impact 5G will have. “We strongly believe we need radical approaches in this industry. The solution is around the corner and it’s called 5G. 5G is a unique change. It’s a new generation which we see just once a decade but we need to take this opportunity.”

"What we’re pushing for is the next Internet - nothing to do with the Internet from the 90s - and the next step is IoT and IoE which are huge and completely different in scale to what we see today," said Seiser. "We really need to leapfrog from where we are today. As some people call it, we need exponential innovation."

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