Powering Ahead with our Software-Centric Network Transformation in 2016

February 23, 2016
By Andre Fuetsch

Our network transformation is in full swing.

Yesterday at Mobile World Congress, AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan shared the latest milestones on our journey to becoming software-centric. He also outlined our goals for 2016.

As we’ve noted before, network virtualization is a big part of this effort. Virtualization is replacing a custom-built hardware device with software running on a standard hardware platform. If you’ve replaced your stereo with a music app on your phone, you’re already familiar with the concept. We’re doing the same thing in the network. We’re turning routers, switches and other network gear into virtual network functions. We plan to virtualize 75% of our network by 2020. Our goal in 2015 was the first 5%. The foundation. And we did it, coming in at 5.7%.

Being first is never easy. We’re well ahead of our competitors in this transition. But first we had to solve some challenges no other connectivity provider ever has. Creating the technology was one challenge. We also had to start changing our internal culture. We had to start training our people with software skills. We had to revamp the financial and business processes to pay for this effort. Now that we have experience under our belt, we’re ready to accelerate. In 2016, we plan to virtualize 30% of our network.

Why are we doing this? From 2007 to 2015, data traffic on our wireless network grew more than 150,000%. People really love their music apps, and their gaming apps and, most of all, video.

If we want to keep up with that demand, we have to be software-centric. We can add capacity and new capabilities faster. We can upgrade our systems automatically rather than sending technicians to install new hardware.

We’re seeing real benefits of this move. Network on Demand, our first software-defined platform to let business customers manage their network services in near real time, has 500-plus paying customers. We’ve already moved 14 million wireless customers to our virtualized network. And we’ll move millions more in 2016. 

We recently brought back Unlimited Data. One of the reasons we were comfortable doing that is we know this software-centric network can adapt to meet the demand.

As I noted, we’ve learned a lot on this journey. We want to share what we’ve learned with developers and other connectivity providers. We’ll have some big news to share soon on that front.

For now, check out the video and animation in this post to get a better sense of what we’re doing and why it’s important. And stay tuned for more!


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