By June, AT&T business users may begin taking advantage of the User-Defined Network Cloud the company introduced in February, giving a formal name to what it's calling its "network of the future."
Marian Croak, AT&T's senior vice president for Domain 2.0 Architecture and Advanced Services Development, said AT&T is in the first year of a six-year plan, and that customers, particularly in the enterprise space, will begin to see offers by June, The Wall Street Journal reported May 7.
Today much more than just a telephone company, AT&T been overhauling its network, replacing legacy infrastructure (copper hardware) with an all-IP platform (software).
AT&T has called the new network a "global first at this scale" and said that it will deliver new efficiencies and cost savings. Customer upgrades will mean updating software, instead of ripping out and replacing physical infrastructure.
"It's more than just a change in how the network is designed. It also changes how we do business, our relationships with suppliers and how we manage software," Tim Harden, president of AT&T's supply chain, said in the February announcement.
AT&T also said that it plans to increase the value of its new network by driving "improved time-to-revenue"; enabling new business and revenue models; offering new growth services and apps; and ensuring world-class security, performance and reliability.
On April 22, AT&T announced that Amdocs and Juniper Networks had been hired to help it build out its User-Defined Network Cloud. Harden, in a statement at the time, again talked up the "ambitious program," saying it would provide "increased global connectivity with easily scalable and faster content delivery."
While the new network is certain to deliver benefits, there are broader industry concerns about the process of transitioning away from the legacy systems, which government regulations are specifically tied to.
Julie Veach, chief of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, said in a May 7 blog post that the FCC supports the transition to next-generation networks, but that this transition will raise questions about consumer expectations. For example, she wrote, "Consumers may expect their plug-in phone to work during a power outage without any action on their part … [and for] a variety of familiar, data-based services, such as credit card readers, home alarms and medical alert monitors, to function in a particular way. Networks other than copper may not support these functionalities."
Veach added that the FCC will be monitoring network updates.
"If we find that core values are not being maintained in these transitions, then it is the FCC's responsibility to protect customers consistent with what Congress told us to do," she said.
Public advocacy group Public Knowledge (PK) applauded the Commission's acknowledgment of the issue.
"While fiber is undoubtedly a more advanced technology than copper," Jodie Griffin, a PK senior staff attorney, said in a statement, "the Commission must ensure that consumers will still have access to an affordable, reliable network during and after the transition."