New applications in vertical markets will see AT&T bring a
new type of consultancy to operators, writes Alan Burkitt-Gray
Kathryn Morrissey: there is a big growth area in health
care for remote monitoring of patients
AT&T is gearing up to promote consultancy to telecoms
operators around the world, helping them gain the benefit of
its experience with its highly successful IPTV service. It is
the beginning of what AT&T executive Kathryn Morrissey
calls "a whole new type of consulting service".
More pertinently for the moment AT&T is also focusing
heavily on promoting telepresence services to its global
enterprise customers. Which means, appropriately enough, that
Morrissey — executive vice president for wholesale in
AT&T Business Solutions — is doing this interview
with Global Telecoms Business via telepresence.
Morrissey is in New York, on the centre of three screens. A
colleague is in a different part of New York, on the right-hand
screen. Both appear, though, to be sitting at an identical
boardroom table. Global Telecoms Business seems to be on the
other side of the same table, but is in London, at another of
AT&T’s offices. Someone has left a bag on a
chair: no, that’s in New York, so
Telepresence is not just high-definition TV, but
high-definition threefold — with three screens at one
side of the table, and three seats at the other. Cameras are
positioned so that the perspective works. The audio is high
quality, without echo or distortion and there’s no
It eats up bandwidth, but it’s a long quicker to
head across the city to have a meeting than to get on a plane.
And hugely cheaper. AT&T’s telepresence
network, using Cisco kit, is already so successful that people
are having to book time in the meeting rooms well in advance.
"You used just to be able to turn up," says a London executive
of the company. "Now our room is full most of the time."
It’s an effective symbol for the first topic of
conversation — globalisation. "More and more customers
are looking to deal with a partner which has scale on a global
basis," says Morrissey. And that also mean mobility. "That
clearly is where we think customers are going to," she adds.
"We’ve seen it in the consumer space, but I think
more and more the trend is that enterprise customers want to
mobilise as many of their applications as they possibly can, so
that their employees can be more productive."
They need "information to make decisions at any time, anywhere
they are in the world on any device they want to use", says
Morrissey. "We are really seeing a big focus on mobilising."
AT&T has had a close relationship with Apple as the
distributor of the iPhone for use on its US mobile network.
That has given the telecoms group good visibility of
what’s happening in the world of mobile
applications — and she sees a trend towards a demand
for apps for the enterprise market.
More than that, AT&T is planning to stimulate the business.
In May 2010 it launched a division, within AT&T Business
Solutions, to promote mobile applications for business.
"We’ve seen a lot of work going on on the consumer
side but now we are really finding that enterprise customers
are looking to us to say help us develop scalable applications
as we mobilise our business," she says.
The "whole purpose" of the new unit "is to hasten the
development — how to get there quickly to market apps
for the enterprise space", she notes. "We’ve seen
smarter devices coming out and faster networks. Enterprise is
getting more comfortable in dealing in that space and
mobilising their workforces."
But it’s not just for conventional — but
mobile — communications. "It can be anything from
machine to machine to sensor management and energy management,"
says Morrissey. "We think there is a big growth area in the
health care space for remote monitoring of patients as we get
smarter devices. So I think you will see us be very active in
terms of developing apps for the enterprise space."
Health, education and the public sector generally are part of
Morrissey’s remit in the US and for US-based
institutions when they need international services.
But the apps side will be global. "Our customers operate on a
global basis so the apps will have to be global," she says. The
new unit will support high-end enterprise customers and smaller
business customers that are looking for ways to mobilise their
And it will be a partnership with other companies. "We
definitely don’t believe that we are going to
develop all the apps, but we are very much interested in
partnering with apps developers," says Morrissey.
"It’s going to be agonistic to devices, I think
you will see. We have other devices besides the iPhone."
AT&T has been offering BlackBerry devices and phones using
Google’s Android operating system. "We really want
customers to be able to access information any time they want
through any device that they want, so that could be their PC
that could be the iPad, it could be smart phones."
A key part of the whole trend to mobility in large enterprise
customers is, of course, cloud. Almost every senior executive
in the industry is excited about the prospects in 2010, and
Morrissey is no exception: she sees cloud as an extension of
what AT&T is doing to help customers mobilise.
"We really see cloud services as an enabler for our customers
to manage their application — whether
it’s hosting services, whether it’s
storage, whether it’s computing services
— to make it easy for our customers to expand their
solutions, their apps, their hosting capability."
We’re in a world where customers’
capital expenditure is limited: cloud can help, by providing
the storage, hosting or computing in the network. "We think
we’re uniquely advantaged in this service because
the global scale of our network."
That enables customers to lower the cost of launching new
services. "It’s a utility model, pay as you go."
Companies can install apps that need extra resources and "it is
easily scalable", she notes. "Customers have peaks in their
business. If you build your data centre for the highest peak
that may only happen for a month or two in the year —
think of tax filings. You then use cloud services to make up
for those peaks and valleys in your business."
Pay as you go "is particularly attractive" because companies
unsure about new services or apps can use cloud resources to
test them out. "We are very excited about it."
Some are wary about using resource out of the company. "Well
there will always be customers that want to touch, feel, and
hold," she says. "But the economics of the environment that
we’re in are forcing enterprises and small
businesses to look for a simpler way to do it", especially when
they are capital constrained. "What we’re looking
at is a hybrid environment for companies where they use partly
their own infrastructure and then partly cloud based services
as they get more used to it."
And it’s no longer in a trial phase, says
Morrissey. "It’s a real business for us. We have
started services and have been steadily expanding those
services. The cloud is a natural extension of mobilising apps
— to put those apps in the network cloud. So we just
think it is a continuation of our overall strategy and it is
AT&T offers some of those apps to other operators in the
telecoms business — including, for example, one that
it developed internally for fleet management. "We run a lot of
trucks out there." The company has an app that helps it use
fuel better and manage routes. "We have sold that in the US to
a number of companies that also have large fleets —
particularly in the telecom space." As a result, "it has
reduced accidents, it’s increased productivity,
it’s increased fuel efficiency", she adds.
"We are really bullish on the mobilisation and globalising. In
the 30 years of being in telecom this is the most exciting time
to be part of a large carrier organisation."
There is a repositioning of carriers away from their "focus on
traditional voice and data services", she notes. "It is a
really positive time to be running a global carrier."
Which leads naturally back to the consultancy services that
AT&T is starting to offer other carriers around the world.
"We are all seeing in this world that we live in the
acceleration of solutions being brought to the marketplace
— so if you look at a carrier that wants to get into
triple play or to launch IPTV in their own market, whether that
is the Middle East or India, we’ve obviously had a
lot of learning as we have launched our own services over the
last four years and built it to a scalable product."
It is time, she adds, "to monetise some of those learnings",
some of the results of AT&T’s extensive
research and development.
"We will provide consulting services to carriers that want to
launch in the own markets so that they can take advantage of
our learning. They can take advantage of some of the
intellectual property and patents that we have developed."
Sometimes AT&T sends its consultants to the customer
country, "but we have just had a carrier that wanted to launch
IPTV in its country. Instead of sending all our consultants to
them, there’re going to come over here to the US
and shadow our experts in the field," says Morrissey.
This is "opening up a whole new type of consulting service" for
AT&T. At the end of May 2010 "we announced that we were
going to open up our intellectual property on a licensed basis
to global carriers, so that they can take advantage of some of
our innovation", she says.
"We are looking to share some of our intellectual property in
what we have developed in the wireless space," she adds
— but not just in wireless networks: "We run a large
global network and we have developed management systems,
security systems, monitoring and so on." The results of that
expertise too will be offered to other operators. At the
launch, at the ITW conference in Washington DC, "the response
— as we demonstrated what we were willing to do
— was very well received. So that’s
another next generation of services we are offering in the
global wholesale space."
Projects that AT&T will be involved in run "from early
feasibility studies down to helping an operator design call
centre applications, or providing assistance in terms of
network, security issues or fraud issues. We will be taking
advantage of a lot of the services AT&T has already
Does this mean that AT&T will be competing with traditional
systems integrators, companies such as Accenture, HP or IBM?
"No because we are very focused on network-only applications,"
she says. "We’re not going into IT so
there’s not a conflict with the systems
integrators. And I also support the system integrators."
In any case "we have a great partnerships with the likes of
Accenture, IBM and HP" and IBM has outsources its network to
AT&T. "We support not only their internal needs from a
networking prospective, but also their outsourcing deals as the
preferred network provider for them."
The consulting work is a couple of years old now, but the
willingness to offer the results of AT&T’s
intellectual property was announced only at the end of May.
"It’s a nascent business for us, but
it’s the opportunity to bring added value to
customers, global carriers that may not be building up their
infrastructure in their own country so are not necessarily
competing against us," she explains. And there’s
the opportunity to earn revenue from the R&D that the group
has invested in.
The prime market for this new business for AT&T is
developing carriers in developing countries, she adds. New
technologies such as IPTV or telepresence won’t be
within their existing ability. "There is less need for the
consulting services" in the US and other developed markets,
It’s new business for AT&T at a time when some
carriers are consolidating and people are starting to question
the future of the traditional voice business. But then, smiles
Morrissey over the telepresence network from New York,
"we’ve been predicting forever that voice will be
going away, whether it’s international voice or
domestic voice, and everybody will go to VoIP", but that
hasn’t happened yet.
"We still have a strong TDM base, and I just don’t
mean AT&T, I mean around the world of voice," she says.
"Obviously carriers like ourselves have deployed IP MPLS
networks" and voice and other applications will move over to
them, "and we will continue to see VoIP traffic growing", but
it’s hard to predict when TDM will fade away.
"It’s years since they’ve been
predicting its demise," she notes.
Why is it lasting so long? "I think it’s so
established. There are small players that haven’t
deployed VoIP networks. There are a lot of wireless carriers
that are still doing TDM as they’re really more
focused on launching their data networks, and
TDM’s working so they just want to let it keep
progressing while they’re focused on other areas."
Meanwhile that gives AT&T a great opportunity to offer the
benefit of its development of new applications both to
enterprises and to other carriers. GTB
Interview with Ron Spears of AT&T Business Solutions
Interview with Bill Archer of