AT&T: On Message With Lots to Share

by Eric Klein | 09/28/2013

I had the opportunity to attend AT&T’s annual Analyst Summit last week in Dallas Texas and came away with a clear purview into the company’s mobile ambitions moving forward. The company issued a flurry of news releases to coincide with the event ― the announcements show AT&T is moving in a coordinated way to ensure its participation in the ever expanding mobile ecosystem. In this vein, AT&T did very well in articulating how its network build commitment for LTE (project VIP) and continued focus on fostering an innovation from startups would help lead its customers towards the business transformational opportunity of mobile enablement.

The releases covered a variety of strategic areas of focus for AT&T that ranged from network API enhancements for customers, developers and partners, the expansion of and furthering of its innovation programs (The Innovation Pipeline (TIP) and Foundry initiatives), a partnership with SAP to resell its EMM and mobile app development solutions, as well as a cloud-oriented solution with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to integrate AT&T’s NetBond (which uses MPLS to establish a VPN connection from the customer to Azure).

AT&T and SAP Simplify Mobile Application Development for Business

Additional AT&T Foundry Innovation Center Opens in Plano

AT&T Launches Enterprise-Focused API Program

These initiatives show AT&T flexing its muscle in the channel (the pact with SAP will surely expand beyond just a resell arrangement). The partnership with Microsoft also bodes well for the company as it positions itself to compete with services such as Amazon's AWS.

M2M – Key Strategic Initiative

Getting to visit AT&T’s new M2M Foundry facility in Plano was a treat ― I was able to speak with most of the startups in attendance, who showcased solutions for smarter cities (an instrumented irrigation system), asset tracking, and even an M2M simulation for analyze our commuting habits – I’m looking forward to instrumented luggage (on display at the facility). Most notable in my view, was the “Sly Fox” project – essentially a middleware platform to streamline the onboarding of M2M devices on to networks such as AT&T’s. Ultimately, connecting instrumented devices to back end systems and applications. In the words of Rohit Pasam of Xaptum, “a means of connecting the brains of our networks with the muscles of our smartphones, cars, homes, gadgets, medical devices, public infrastructure, and even our own bodies”. Xaptum’s demo was compelling but also demonstrative of the work that still needs to be done to instrument equipment. The company is just one of the innovators selected during the Fast Pitch process that AT&T conducts at its Foundry's.

On Message

Many of AT&T’s senior leaders addressed us through the course of the event. I was impressed with their ability to stay on message ― each referred to the graphic below and aligned it to their role within the business, and to the mobile opportunity for growth at AT&T. Each of the company’s executives made it clear that they see “only a handful of businesses” having been able realize true business transformation via mobile enablement.

Source: AT&T

AT&T had customers and partners on site who are making meaningful technology investments to augment their business strategies ― these discussions included executives from Ancero, Hertz, Maersk Line, and Red Bull Racing. Each detailed their unique experience in working with AT&T, and explained how the partnership was benefiting their business. For example, Hertz’s CTO discussed how his company was utilizing mobile solutions to assign vehicles to travelers and to provide location-based direction and roadside services to help drivers stay connected while on the go. Maersk’s CIO discussed his company’s sizable M2M investment ($200M) and how he viewed it as transforming remote container management and removing/reducing human error in his company’s processes.

Other Highlights

Meeting (and dining with) The Wireless History Foundations’ recent Hall of Fame inductee Kris Rinne (currently the SVP of Network Technologies at AT&T Labs) was a treat. I thoroughly enjoyed dialoguing with one of the wireless industry’s foremost experts on spectrum ― suffice it to say that she sees challenges ahead, with politics continuing to play a role. Finally, event attendees were given an exclusive tour of AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboy Stadium) as well as a walk through of the NOC. The technology investments and IT infrastructure described in the stadium were mind blowing and rivaled that of a small city ― for geeks like me, this was too much fun ... I also had the opportunity to spend some quality time during the networking reception with AT&T’s CTO Krish Prabhu. Krish introduced me to several AT&T partners that I’m starting to track more closely (Vobi and Tropo). All in all, the trip to Dallas was time well spent, and has me looking forward to the developer event that AT&T hosts in January.