MWC: Deutsche Telekom in Zeiss smart glasses plan

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Zeiss and Deutsche Telekom to fund development of 5G spectacles, but call on developers to work on applications

Deutsche Telekom has formed an exclusive agreement with optical company Zeiss to develop smart glasses that will make use of future 5G networks.

No time scale has yet been set for a commercial launch of the glasses, but CEO Tim Höttges said at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (MWC) on Monday that both companies are making “financial commitments” to the development, which will be available on other networks, he said.

The glasses will be linked to a 5G smartphone, displaying information in one eye, said Ulrich Simon, head of research and technology at Zeiss, speaking alongside Höttges.

He said the glasses would be “discreet, really not visible to other people”. Indeed, the models – or prototypes – that Höttges and Simon showed off at MWC looked like ordinary thick-rimmed spectacles – without the attachments that Google Glasses showed a few years ago.

“These glasses will substitute for the smartphone,” said Höttges. A pair will include a microphone, he added.

But Deutsche Telekom wants to encourage the designer community to develop smart use cases, he said. “We’re opening it up to the crowd-sourcing community.”

Höttges said at MWC that Deutsche Telekom is planning a Europe-wide rollout of 5G mobile, promising an increase in capacity 1,000 times today’s LTE, within the next two years.

The company says it is planning 100% coverage of the countries where it operates, from the Netherlands to Greece, where it regards OTE as part of the network.

At the same event head of technology Claudia Nemat announced a collaboration with China Unicom on narrowband internet of things (NB IoT) services, a move that will see the two companies share a platform for machine-to-machine (M2M) services.

“This is not just a commercial partnership, but we’re sharing platforms,” she said. Deutsche Telekom’s customers in Europe will be able “to have the same M2M connectivity in China and the other way round. We can offer connectivity with the same user experience.”

NB IoT is currently a 4G technology but will operate over future 5G, she said, because of the emerging technique of network slicing. This will allow 5G networks different types of services with different requirements over the same infrastructure.

Höttges said that “2020 will see real 5G networks” across the company’s operations. “Germany will be one of the first, because that is 50% of the value of the company. We are trying to do everything to be aggressive and lead the pack.”

The future 5G networks will have 1,000 times the capacity of what he called “classical 4G”, with 100 times the speed and one-tenth the latency.

It will be available “everywhere Deutsche Telekom is operating”, he said.

But the cost will be high. European operators will together have to invest €300-€500 billion on infrastructure between them, he said.