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Home | Carrier Services | Telekom Austria Group: The Ongoing Technology Evolution
  Johann Pichler, Group Chief Technology Officer, Telekom Austria Group
  Johann Pichler,
Group Chief Technology Officer,
Telekom Austria Group

Telekom Austria Group: The Ongoing Technology Evolution

Johann Pichler, Group Chief Technology Officer, talks to InterComms about the ongoing technology evolution and the deployment of mobile broadband

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Johann Pichler was born in 1955 in Vienna. After completing his professional training in communications engineering and electronics, he began his career in the Post and Telegraph Administration, the predecessor organization of mobilkom austria. Among other things, he began as Division Head in what was then the Directorate-General and was project manager for the GSM-pilot system. He has been with mobilkom austria since its founding in 1996. In the following years he held various senior positions within the company and the mobilkom austria group. Pichler also was a member of the Board of velcom in Belarus and as CTO there very successfully lead the integration of this leader in innovations and quality. In his capacity as Group CTO for the mobilkom austria group, Johann Pichler harmonized the technical platforms between the members of the group, thereby creating increased synergies. In April 2009, Pichler assumed the function of CTO of mobilkom austria. Recently, Johann Pichler was assigned Group Chief Technology Officer of Telekom Austria Group, being responsible for group-wide technology decisions.

Q: Within the market in some regions there is a reduction of deployment of new services, due to current financial restraints, Telekom Austria Group is for instance rolling out new Mobile Broadband in Belarus, what do you accredit this to?
A: Velcom performed well and now with the acquisition of the 3G licence we want to bring a compelling offer to the market. We just launched the 3G network in the Belarusian 1.7 million inhabitants capital Minsk and the 500,000 inhabitants city of Gomel.

As an innovation leader in all our markets with nearly 19 million customers, our strategy has been and remains to deliver a high quality mobile network to our customers in all markets of operation. We have recently undertaken a number of network and product innovations. mobilkom austria, the mobile subsidiary of Telekom Austria Group, was the first to launch HSPA+, which was followed by HSPA+ launches in Bulgaria and Croatia. Some of our interesting product innovations in 2009 include the A1 credit card in Austria (a credit card linked to mobile phone services); Bulgarian subsidiary Mobiltel marketed a high quality digital TV called ‘’QUARTO’’; and, Macedonian subsidiary Vip operator and Serbian subsidiary Vip mobile offer their customers Facebook@SMS and SMS2Facebook services. Plus, Vip mobile organised a very successful “Vip Android Challenge” – an exclusive contest for the development of national applications for mobile devices.

These are just the latest in a proven track record of innovations, launching the first m-commerce application worldwide in July 1999 and Europe’s first UMTS network in September 2002. In March 2009 Telekom Austria Group became the first to commercially launch ‘’HSPA+’’ in Europe. And this list just names a few.

The success of the Mobile Communication segment is based on innovation and technology leadership. The full coverage for 99% population coverage networks (GSM, GPRS, UMTS+EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA and HSPA+) support leading-edge mobile voice, data and multimedia products and services. The segment shows a booming mobile data business, which ranks top in Europe. Telekom Austria Group has developed a diverse mobile communications footprint, entering different growth markets with a long-term potential. Despite fierce competition and a saturated market, mobilkom austria recorded the highest growth in market share in the history of the company in 2009, increasing its market share from 42.5% at the end of 2008 to 42.6% at the end of 2009.

Q: The benefit to service providers is the cost of deployment of Mobile broadband, were there any significant problems in deploying the service?
A: First it had to be said that Austria ranks top in mobile broadband Europe-wide. Due to our emphasis on network quality, cutting-edge technology and attractive pricing we counted 540,000 mobile broadband customers by year-end 2009, an increase of 35% compared to the previous year.

So we do not see any significant problems at present. We have a very good nation-wide 3G network and now we are mainly focused on upgrades. The key is constant network optimization with sound net quality incorporating operative daily jobs. Our network has been awarded best a couple of times by independent research institutes and – in comparison to our competitors – we have good backhauling.

Our additional asset is regional offices throughout Austria with in-house technicians who can fix technical problems immediately and are in constant communication with each other. An example to illustrate this is METAWIN: During this research project initiated by mobilkom austria network activities were analyzed in detail and then used for optimization measures. This project has been developed into a specific product called DataXtender, which is now distributed to other mobile phone operators via mobilkom austria’s partner Kapsch CarrierCom.

Q: The one area that some service providers find a problem is with Upload versus download speed on the Mobile Broadband services, is this a problem for yourselves?
A: There have been no reported problems with upload because, we know that mobile broadband is mainly used for downloads. We provide a very fast mobile network with HSPA+ and download speeds of up to 21 Mbit/s as well as HSUPA with upload speeds of up to 5.7 Mbit/s. Last year we set also a technical milestone increasing the speed to 28 Mbit/s.

Despite providing excellent speeds for mobile broadband for current demands the future challenge, however, is to manage the demand for more bandwidths. To illustrate the demand for more bandwidth: 487 billion gigabytes of information were added to the “Digital Universe” in 20081; in 2012, there will be five times as many additional bits added as in 20082, global IP traffic will at least double every two years3, and 4,000 new web addresses are generated every second.4

In the business customer segment we see that video conferencing and various applications offered as online-services are increasing and with residential customers we are seeing an increase in demand for multimedia services like aonTV, Youtube or online gaming. Therefore offloading is and will be a huge challenge for mobile operators. Since Telekom Austria Group has a mobile and fixed net segment we already offer convergent product bundles to offload the traffic on the mobile network.

Q: How cost effective do you think you can get price wise to compete with say the DSL services which can be below €20?
A: It is fair to say that a number of factors contributed to the success of mobile broadband, especially for A1, the mobile brand of Telekom Austria Group in Austria. For instance we have had a very early go at the market, end-to-end proposition, excellent network quality and competitive pricing. A certain price level was required to support a valuable offer, and an attractive proposition. Our initially launched pricing proved to be very profitable – however this market price level declined due to competition.

We now follow a multibrand strategy trying to serve all target segments. On the A1 side we continue a smart follower strategy, not setting the price points but emphasizing the quality of our network as well as our innovative approach. For example we already offer convergent internet propositions (DSL at home/office and 3.5G on the move) which also optimizes efficiency. Usability is also key, for instance dashboard support provides the easy use of provides product (Plug & Play). Last, but not least, excellent service with the opportunity to test mobile broadband, free support in the shops and excellent technical support via call centre addresses any question and supplies support to solve any issue the user might have.

We were seeing that over 70% of our customers use mobile broadband at home and therefore we decided to offer a combined mobile and fixed net broadband offer with aonFlex. Over 50,000 Telekom Austria customers use aonFlex, which offers our customers the best of both worlds – at home, customers surf the net on a fixed high-speed broadband connection, while on the go they enjoy the freedom of mobile Internet. It has an Integrated Connection manager that enables the best connection at all times. This rapid customer uptake of the service demonstrates that users appreciate the combination of fixed and mobile Internet access.

Q: Where do you see Mobile Broadband growing and when can you see real-time content services, arriving?
A: As stated before we will see increased demand for bandwidths: with an increase of smartphone usage, applications and further attractive mobile broadband pricing we will see continued growth of mobile broadband.

As for real-time content services we already offer eg. UMTS streaming on mobile devices so that customers can watch TV programmes in real-time on their mobiles or use social media offerings such as YouTube.

In regard to real-time services such as video and voice we see improvements in bandwidth and latency through ongoing technology evolution.

1 IDC-Multimedia white paper, May 2009
2 IDC-Multimedia white paper, May 2009
3 Approaching the Zettabyte Era, Cisco, 2008
4 Google, 2008

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