AT&T Goes Beyond Convergence

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Real-time network analysis, WiMax, and a host of emerging technologies are on 's (NYSE: T) mind these days, chief architect Behzad Nadji told an audience here at Links 2005, Heavy Reading's annual executive summit.

AT&T's plans for network convergence are well know, but it's got a lot of other aspirations for next-generation networks, Nadji said.

Network analysis is among AT&T's most ambitious ideas. AT&T has 2.8 petabits of Internet Protocol (IP) data "in flight" on its network per day, Nadji said. The figure climbs to 5 petabits if other data types are included. And the rise of sensory networks -- RFID networks and surveillance cameras, for example -- will only add to the flood.

AT&T doesn't want to let this data just fly by. "You have to be able to analyze it and take advantage of it, especially in network management, security management, and fraud management," he said.

So, the carrier is building an infrastructure to study the traffic in transit, applying the information to areas such as data mining or fraud detection. The latter is particularly intricate, given that new fraud techniques continually sprout up. AT&T's analysis software includes 300 fraud detection modules, with a new one being added every two weeks, Nadji said.

On the wireless side, AT&T is in love with WiMax. The appeal? AT&T spends $8.5 billion on access charges. Some of that would be alleviated if the pending merger with (NYSE: SBC) goes through, but not all -- SBC covers only 13 states in the U.S. WiMax is a way to quickly provision broadband access without having to pay those charges. (See DoCoMo Opens Calif. Subsidiary and FCC Clears Megamergers.)

AT&T doesn't own WiMax spectrum, though, so the company is working on strategies to lease or buy spectrum, Nadji said. Again, SBC would be a help, as the company owns spectrum in some markets.

AT&T has set up WiMax trials for the rural, suburban, and urban markets -- in Alaska; Middleton, N.J.; and Atlanta, respectively. The Atlanta trial involves 3.5GHz licensed spectrum and should begin customer trials in the fourth quarter of 2005, Nadji said. (See AT&T Plots WiMax Trial .)

Other techy tidbits Nadji dropped:

  • IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technologies, which relate to new services and fixed/mobile convergence, certainly figure into AT&T's plans. (See AT&T: We've Got FMC Too.) But AT&T wants more from the standard; the upcoming IMS 7.0 and 8.0 versions will include features the carrier is hungry for, Nadji said.
  • In a move similar to IBM Corp.'s (NYSE: IBM) autonomic computing, AT&T wants to let the network fix some problems itself. Considering the network can identify problems and even pinpoint the root cause, why not make them apply the fix, too?
  • AT&T also sees big potential for the Intelligent Routing Service Control Point (iRSCP), an emerging standard that would "put routing decisions in a centralized intelligent area," as Nadji put it. The idea is to separate the routing plane from the control plane, which would let carriers hand routing decisions over to customers without giving them full access to network controls. "Customers can have their own policy-based traffic management on their own VPN network," he said.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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