AT&T evolves small cell, VoLTE, WebRTC in drive for broadband ubiquity

Carrier envisions a connected future across its networks
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Orlando -- If one word could sum up the top priority at AT&T (NYSE: T) it would be broadband, from both a wireline and wireless perspective, according to Chuck Kalamek, vice president of research for AT&T Labs.

Charles Kalamek, AT&T Labs

Kalamek (Image source: AT&T)

Broadband is pushing the carrier forward at breakneck speeds in developing and deploying LTE along with all the elements it needs to succeed, Kalamek said during a keynote address at GENBAND's Perspectives13 conference here. On the wireline side, broadband is the essence of Project VIP (Velocity IP), the carrier's $14 billion network upgrade.

"Anybody who thinks this industry is slowing down only has to look at the data" of where consumer demand is going and how much data itself is being consumed, Kalamek said. "It's a treadmill that's constantly moving."

In the wireless space, that means moving LTE to as many markets as possible, and "we're ahead of schedule in deploying our LTE," he said.

Among the processes involved, AT&T Labs is evolving small cell technology. Where the carrier plans targeted deployments for in-cell coverage, it continues to use femtocells but is expanding to metrocells and multi-standard metrocells as part of a longer term vision.

AT&T is currently trialing its small cell technology in two markets--Waukesha, Wis., and New York City--where initial findings include a 25 percent increase in traffic, declining cell drop rates and overall stronger signals.

"This is a very exciting technology that we're going to be rolling out this year," he said.

Also ready to come off the drawing board is VoLTE (Voice over LTE), which the carrier continues to trial with plans for a rollout by the end of this year.

It's all part of the carrier's "migration to a true all-IP network" that consolidates VoLTE services on the WebRTC-supported IMS Innovation platform.

Project VIP's goal of "ubiquitous broadband" is "pretty amazing stuff," he said.

The end game of Project VIP, he predicted, will be "the connected life" where customers can link into a holistic experience across wireline and wireless services and devices.

"We're going to put ourselves into the customer intimacy business" by developing an "environment that can sense what you're doing and adapt." The goal, he said, will be to create a personal cloud that is, in the end, "my personal digital footprint."

The carrier's goals go beyond the consumer and into the business as well, he said, especially as it involves big data. To fully use its networks, AT&T must "move to a world where the majority of the network elements are software," he said. "It's not here today, but this is the direction we're headed in."

A necessary element of an all-software network is SDN which, Kalamek said, is "not a new idea" for AT&T, which "pioneered SDN in our IP backbone."

Show Coverage: GENBAND's Perspectives13: Continuing coverage from Orlando

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