AT&T's announcement of its $200 million commitment to a venture capital fund backing tech startups grabbed some headlines last week, but on closer inspection, this is practically business as usual for the telecom giant.
What's different this time around is that AT&T is expecting whatever solutions are developed to run on top of the Open Network Automation Platform ( ONAP) it helped launch earlier this year with the Linux Foundation -- because AT&T is convinced this is going to be the operating system most telecom providers will be using. That doesn't mean the work itself will be ONAP-specific, however.
"We believe [ONAP] is going to be the network operating system for the majority of the network operators out there," says Igal Elbaz, vice president, Ecosystem and Innovation for AT&T Services. "If you build anything on top of our network from a services perspective, obviously you want to build on top of ONAP. But many operators are adopting all of a sudden this solution so you can create a ubiquitous solution that can touch a large number of customers and end users around the world."
What the Minneapolis-based Coral Group claims to be able to do is identify startups who can tackle the hardest problems a network operator faces. Telefónica invested in its Communications Industry Platform (CIP) a few years back.
"We work with them closely in the initial period where we are identifying some of the areas where we want them to deliver solutions, to dialog with them," Elbaz says. "We are going to work with them, be open with them on what we are interested in, then they will have to deliver."
As for AT&T, it has directly invested in small companies that are developing critical technologies including wireless antenna specialist Blue Danube Systems and SnapRoute , an open source software company that developed the network operating system for the white box switch AT&T developed with Barefoot Networks. (See AT&T White Box a Disruptive Force.)
Layer on top of all that what AT&T does with its multiple AT&T Foundry sites, where it engages with startups as well, and the innovation programs run at AT&T Labs to identify new ideas and solutions and this latest effort becomes "just another pillar in our overall innovation program," Elbaz says. (See AT&T Foundry Tackles IoT, Pics: AT&T's Foundry of Things and AT&T Opens New Innovation Labs.)
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading
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