Tim Höttges is a telco veteran. He joined Deutsche Telekom in 2000, was appointed to the board of directors in 2006 and became CEO in 2014. His leadership style proved invaluable as the COVID-19 outbreak unfolded, leading to record levels of employee and customer satisfaction.
At the start of the pandemic, Deutsche Telekom sent 180,000 of its people home to work remotely. “We did that almost in one week,” he said. “All the IT went perfectly.”
Höttges ensured transparent, honest and frequent communication with his employees. As a result: “We have the highest satisfaction rate of people within the organization. Ninety percent of our employees say that they’re proud to work for Deutsche Telekom. They feel very well cared for by the organization.”
Helping Customers Deal With Lockdown
Deutsche Telekom launched numerous initiatives to help its customers deal with the reality of lockdown. The company provided free video conferencing apps, so schools could educate children from home. It also offered apps, like Disney+, free of charge to keep families entertained.
“Despite the increased demand and employees working remotely, Deutsche Telekom has not had a single network outage affecting its customers,” noted Höttges.
Its actions and reliability resonated well with customers, with the telco gaining its highest ever Net Promoter Score.
Connectivity Is in Deutsche Telekom’s DNA
In times like the pandemic, enabling connectivity plays an even more important societal role. “We won’t stop until everyone is connected,” explained Höttges. “I am excited about every technology which makes connectivity better for us.”
That’s why Höttges is committed to 5G: “For us, 5G is the next big opportunity and that is why we are investing in it. Everything which can be connected will be connected, and 5G is the enabler for that. One hundred times more speed, a dramatic increase in capacity and real-time low latency.”
To succeed in 5G, Höttges is ensuring Deutsche Telekom is an early mover and making the necessary investments to build out its substantial 5G network. For example, the company has invested 17 billion euros in infrastructure and services this year alone.
A Software-Defined Network
“We see a disaggregation of the infrastructure, the cloudification of services,” said Höttges. “Software is steering the infrastructure, and the cloud is the home of software.”
Evolving to software-defined networks helps Deutsche Telekom to increase its independence from individual vendors and, in doing so, lower costs.
“Disaggregation through software-ization, virtualization and multi-cloud means we can make services cheaper and the quality better,” he said.
An open approach is particularly critical for telcos. Höttges called for political support to convince vendors to open up and mandate the use of open radio access networks (O-RAN) in future. This technology would allow operators to combine products from several vendors at the same mobile site, resulting in a more software-based and potentially lower-cost network: “Even from a regulatory perspective, it should enforce the O-RAN standard and make our supply chain more independent and flexible.”
“Everybody’s focusing on COVID-19. Everybody’s focusing on trying to survive in this difficult environment, and I know how difficult it is. But we should never forget the big purpose of staying connected, of international partnerships, of cultural exchange across the globe,” he said. “It’s always about getting things done at the end of the day. Not talking, but doing. That’s my commitment and I’m sure we’re going to have success in the future.”