AT&T’s John Donovan: This is the Future of Our Network

Tech giant outlines how it expects to bolster its network in the next several years.

AT&T's John Donovan laid out the tech company's plans to bolster its network for the next few years.
AT&T’s John Donovan laid out the tech company’s plans to bolster its network for the next few years.

AT&T is accelerating its pace of innovation as it charges ahead with the Internet of Things, migrating to a software-defined network, and developing 5G standards and innovations.

The tech giant is already dealing with massive amounts of traffic, handling 117 petabytes of data per day, which is the same as streaming 59 million videos per day. That traffic is only expected to increase 10 times by 2020, mostly due to the growth in IoT, virtual reality, and streaming video.

“The network of the future doesn’t get here all at once,” John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T Technology and Operations, said at the Telecommunications Industry Association Network of the Future Conference on Tuesday. “But we are super excited about where the future is in networking. The age of guessing is over.”

Donovan laid out what the next few years looks like for AT&T as it forges ahead, starting with its latest announcement: The opening of its sixth innovation center. AT&T’s newest foundry opened its doors Tuesday at Texas Medical Center’s Innovation Institute in Houston. The center aims to leverage collaboration between hospitals, clinics and startups to develop innovations that will help improve healthcare.

It joins Foundries in Atlanta; Palo Alto, California; Ra’anana, Israel; and the two in Plano, which focus on software and the Internet of Things, respectively.

But this isn’t the first time AT&T has dipped into the healthcare space. In fact, Donovan cited ways its new software centric solution, Network on Demand, is already aiding health professionals in Austin.

At Austin Cancer Center, which has adopted the technology, patients can get results and treatment faster, as their healthcare providers are using software that can instantly send images to radiologists at any of its 12 locations as soon as scans are completed. Austin Cancer Center also has the ability to scale up and down its bandwidth according to its needs—a defining characteristic of AT&T’s Network on Demand.

Beyond healthcare, AT&T is well on its way to accomplishing all of its goals of transforms into a software-defined network. The company virtualized 5.7 percent of its network last year. This year, that number is expected to hit 30 percent, with the goal of reaching 75 percent by 2020. Last year, the company also built 74 AT&T Integrated Cloud facilities, or data centers, which were direct results of the virtualization milestones. By the end of the year, the company expects to have 105 facilities.

“We built the scale and capabilities to take it to a whole other level,” Donovan said. “2016 is critical.”

And as the company continues to scale its software capabilities, it’s getting more active in open source coding. The company has been building AIC technology in OpenStack, an open-source software platform. It’s also working with other open source groups, with which the company both contributes and consumes open source code. It’s also considering releasing code from its its Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy, also known as ECOMP. The company wrote more than 8.5 million lines of code for the policy, which creates a framework for real-time software automation of network functions.

Finally, it continues to work on the standardization of 5G. Monday, the company announced it has partnered with Nokia as it continues to test the future network. It has already been working with Ericsson and Intel, testing the network in five cities across the nation including Austin. Donovan said that AT&T could release its first 5G deployments in 2017.

 

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