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 it's Morrissey's.
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 delay.
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
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 very interconnected."
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
"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
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, confirms
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