AT&T Industry Analyst Summit: Global, Mobile, Wi-Fi and IoT
The Analyst Summit provides analysts with a summary of what AT&T is currently doing and a sneak peek at what the operator has planned for the coming year. With LTE fully deployed, the company is focusing on network optimization, new services and reducing complexity.
In early October, I had the privilege of attending the 2016 AT&T Analyst Summit in Dallas. The event was attended by approximately one hundred analysts who cover AT&T. Some of the information shared was confidential, but a good part of it was public and quite informative.
AT&T Business Solutions and International
I got the sense immediately that AT&T has truly become a global company. That might be hard to believe, since wireless operators operate in defined and restricted specific geographies. There are two reasons that geo-restrictive thinking is changing, particularly for AT&T:
- There has been a lot of consolidation of wireless operators around the world, with an emphasis in Europe. Large international operators like Vodafone and Telefonica own multiple operators in multiple geographies. Recently, AT&T acquired multiple operators in Mexico, yielding a North American network that provides seamless connectivity for AT&T customers.
- Companies like AT&T are creating a number of international assets and services that extend the real North America geography into a virtual geography that extends to many countries outside of North America. Take a look at this summary slide presented by Ralf de la Vega, CEO of Business Solutions and International:
As you can see, AT&T is doing a lot of business internationally, with 87.5 million business wireless connections and 3.5 million business customers in 200+ countries and territories. Plus, AT&T has become the #1 provider of pay TV in Latin America.
AT&T has spent a lot of energy and capital to build out its Smart Platform that is based on Software Defined Networks (SDN) that’s integrated with its on premise and Integrated Cloud offering. Take a look at the following diagram:
This makes it much easier for enterprise customers, who can now define its network requirements via a console vs. having to move physical equipment around in its data center to meet changing demands. Notice that AT&T has an emphasis on working with a range of alliance partners including AirWatch, MobileIron, and IBM that can integrate their service offerings into the AT&T enterprise networking environment.
When you expand the AT&T Integrated Cloud offering above, it becomes the following:
The AT&T Integrated Cloud (virtual network) enables for major areas of support:
- Network on Demand — supports the Intelligent Factory and other on-demand environments.
- Mobile — drives the use of mobile devices and the new Internet of Things (see more on IoT below).
- NetBond® — enables AT&T customers to utilize AT&T’s Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to connect to any cloud computer or IT service environment in AT&T’s partner ecosystem.
- FlexWare — supports both domestic and international sites whereby the client can reduce its on-site equipment and operate via virtualized network functions.
With security so important to the enterprise, AT&T has two major offerings that will help enterprise accounts:
- Using AT&T NetBond® that utilizes its virtual private network (VPN).
- AT&T Threat Manager that monitors the network for intrusions. This is shown in the following diagram:
AT&T Enterprise Telecom and Mobility
When you look at what AT&T is doing in the enterprise, the following diagram provides a good summary. Note that its LTE network covers 99% of the US population (over 380 million people in North America).
AT&T presented on enterprise networking (focused on telecom networks and PBXs) and device/endpoints that drive mobile devices and IoT. The following diagram shows the historical telecom journey that most medium and large organizations have had experienced.
Some enterprises have legacy PBX equipment that is still used simply because it works and may not cost much to maintain. Then, there are the IP-based PBXs that are rapidly migrating to network-based, scalable, on-demand, wired telephony solutions. The key here is getting the enterprise’s mobile devices to work seamlessly with the company’s phone network so one is easily accessed by the other.
Probably the most important slide for enterprise mobility managers is the following simple diagram that defines AT&T’s strategy for pricing of enterprise client mobile devices.
The Mobile Share Advantage℠ plan is designed for small enterprises with up to 25 mobile devices. The big change here is that AT&T is announcing zero overages. This has plagued small business for a long time, as the telecom manager had to keep track of each device and the overages that occurred. When they did occur (e.g. when an employee is using their mobile smartphone to watch Netflix movies), then the telecom manager had to work with the employee to reduce their usage. With zero overages, the small business can better manage its mobile devices on the network.
An even bigger announcement concerned the Mobile Select℠ plans for companies with 26 or more devices on the network. In the past, AT&T had created one plan after another, resulting in Mobile Select℠ offering over 175 different plans. This caused a nightmare for the enterprise telecom manager who had to figure out what set of plans were best for the company. Now, AT&T has reduced the 175+ different plans to four (4). This will make it a lot easier on the enterprise to figure out what plan or plans are best for its situation.
While AT&T did discuss the coming migration to 5G, it was only in general terms, and not a centerpiece of the presentations. I think this is because the standards for 5G are still evolving and have finally begun to take shape. AT&T feels the migration to 5G is at least five or more years away, so it decided to wait until future meetings to go into more detail on 5G plans.
AT&T did give a detailed preview of a new advanced backhaul technology that could help increase bandwidth to the home and office: Project AirGig technology. It has two components:
- Data transmission that uses power lines in which Project AirGig will run over, but not on.
- Local transmission to the home/office. This could be a major new development in transmission technology that could affect overall throughput. The following figure shows a summary of the capabilities of Project AirGig:
While most of DIRECTV is a ‘pure play’ entertainment product, there is at least one upcoming DIRECTV service that could affect the enterprise customer. AT&T is clearly migrating DIRECTV into a premium entertainment service with DIRECTV Freeview available to sample content, DIRECTV Now for over the top (OTT) content, and DIRECTV for Premium subscription service.
Look for DIRECTV Now OTT service to provide higher value to customers by offering DIRECTV content on their mobile devices. See the following diagram for the overall AT&T strategy for entertainment. (The left side is for TV and the right side is for mobile.)
What I think may be interesting is for AT&T to offer business customers the ability for the employee’s smartphone to be provided free access to at least some, if not all, of the content provided by DIRECTV Now. While AT&T did not mention anything like this, it would seem like an attractive offering that might bring more customers to AT&T – where the employee accesses DIRECTV Now video and then migrates their personal entertainment service to AT&T; fulfilling the multiple screen strategy that AT&T is clearly pursuing. Just think about this for a minute: AT&T has 15 million DIRECTV customers who do not have AT&T Wireless, and AT&T Wireless has 21 million customers who do not have DIRECTV. The cross-over opportunity is gigantic, and certainly has the attention of the AT&T management team.
Internet of Things (IoT)
One of the most popular sessions at the Analyst Summit was Chris Penrose presenting on Internet of Things (IoT). AT&T has made a number of investments in the entire IoT ecosystem as shown in the following diagram. AT&T already has 29 million IoT connections and is growing fast. I expect this number to be in the hundreds of millions of connected devices within five years.
In order to deal with the wide range of connected devices, AT&T provides a variety of network connectivity options ranging from global cellular, low power wide area, satellite, Wi-Fi and short range communications (see the following diagram). In addition, AT&T operates a large Wi-Fi network that is in cooperation with many of its company’s enterprise accounts. Often, this will decrease the employee’s reliance on wide area cellular.
AT&T supports enterprises with a number of different platforms and services infrastructure that is needed to make the entire IoT ecosystem work. This includes security, analytics, billing and control center logic. These platforms and services are shown in the following diagram.
While there were over 40 AT&T executives presenting at the Analyst Summit, I focused my attention on the sessions that would most help enterprises deal with their network, telecom, mobile devices and IoT. To be sure, these services are not all unique to AT&T. Verizon has many of these same services, although presented in different way.
I commend AT&T for reducing the number of plans in its Mobile Select℠ offerings for enterprises with more than 25 employees. Both AT&T and Verizon are putting a lot of talent and resources behind IoT. The AT&T IoT initiatives are very broad-based including local low power to global, covering a number of industries and assisting clients with a multi-feature platform as shown above. I also think that its security monitor network services will help many companies cost-effectively deal with threat management.
I’m sure I speak for everyone who attended the AT&T Analyst Summit when I say that the company did a very good job of preparing for this event; and it provided very useful information that will help analysts like myself, counsel software and service providers as well as enterprise customers.
Note: This article has been reviewed and approved by AT&T.