AT&T enhances out of region Ethernet reach with service providers, carrier hotel agreements

AT&T (NYSE: T) may be one of the largest Ethernet providers, but the reality is that it can't reach into every business location that its customers may have.

In order to get to more locations, the telco set a series of short-term and long-term Ethernet interconnection goals that will leverage its own internal methods and emerging Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) standards.

Initially, AT&T has been working with other ILECs, CLECs and even data center providers to provide customers another option to get their service even if it is outside of the telco's wireline footprint.

"On the short term, we just needed to get more choices out of region period even if we had to do meet points in carrier hotels," said Rick Hubbard, senior VP of networking product management for AT&T Mobile & Business Solutions, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "Even in places like Dallas, you need to connect with lots of people."

Interconnection is nothing new for large telcos like AT&T. Currently, the carrier has over 3,500 TDM-based interconnection points with various carriers.  

However, Hubbard said that replicating the same amount interconnections in Ethernet if cost prohibitive.

"You can't afford to replicate the same TDM interconnection point efforts in Ethernet," Hubbard said. "The MEF is stepping up to be more of a standards body for how people connect together."

AT&T is working with the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) to develop new elements to enhance the Ethernet interconnection process with the "Ethernet Interconnect Point ENNI Implementation Agreement – MEF 54." The new IA gives service providers like AT&T guidelines to create these new interconnections either all at once or in a series of steps.

A key tenet of the MEF 54 standard is to create harmony in the Ethernet interconnection process between service providers that need to provision services outside of their wireline network territories for business customers.

At the same time, AT&T has created a database that allows its sales force that is selling out-of-region Ethernet circuits to access a database that will show what service provider partners have the best prices.

"We couldn't have our sales teams ... every time they had a multi-site deal, check for alternate paths," Hubbard said. "We put in a bunch of relationships with CLECs, cable operators and struck different deals with ILECs and now we have automation at the sales person level so if they load in 15 locations and five are out of region it will tell them what are the low-cost ones out of region to use."

Hubbard said the next step for AT&T and other carriers is to work with the MEF to develop new Ethernet interconnection relationships at "different points so all of us can aggregate better, and I think we're probably a year away from the MEF making that a real standard."

At the same time, AT&T continues to build out its 100G network capabilities into more of the largest U.S.-based carrier hotels.

"As we upgraded our common backbone to 100G, we're pre-building into the top 15 carrier hotels which carry north of 80 percent of everything that moves, so we're building 100G there too," Hubbard said. "Some of it is competitive, but some of it is depending on who has the facility that you have to strike a deal with, and you want to be operationally excellent with all of them."

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