Meet the CTOs in wireline: AT&T’s Andre Fuetsch

AT&T’s Andre Fuetsch (AT&T)

This story is part of a broader Meet the CTOs feature that introduces all of the major network operator CTOs across the wireless, telecom and cable industries. To read about top network CTOs from other companies, click here.

Who he is: As the President of AT&T Labs and the CTO, Andre Fuetsch is responsible for delivering the architecture and design of AT&T’s future network. Fuetsch is an AT&T veteran; he joined the company in 1995. Fuetsch holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley. He also completed core coursework for the Computer Science Master’s program at Stanford University.

Where he is: Fuetsch leads a team of over 2,000 engineers and computer scientists working on programs encompassing both the business and mass market customer segments. Fuetsch reports to John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President of AT&T Technology and Operations. Enrique Rodriguez is AT&T’s Entertainment Group CTO, handling video delivery and what happens inside the home.

And Fuetsch’s role at AT&T has continued to expand in recent years. In 2014, Fuetsch took over the reins of AT&T’s Domain 2.0 initiative from veteran executive Marian Croak, who retired after 32 years with the company.

What he’s doing: Fuetsch’s role is far reaching as he oversees the global technology direction for AT&T’s wireline and wireless technologies. His responsibilities span network planning, the company’s innovation road map, AT&T Labs, AT&T Foundry, and the intellectual property organization. His responsibilities include spearheading the design of the company’s next-generation 5G wireless infrastructure, software-defined networking (SDN) initiative, and analytics and automation program.

Indeed, tying AT&T’s wireline and wireless future is SDN. Driven by the implementation of software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), Domain 2.0 is the model by which AT&T will emulate with software the functions of pieces of hardware like routers and switches, and will run that software on standard, off-the-shelf hardware. AT&T’s software-centric network is controlled and powered by ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management, and Policy). The service provider has set an ambitious goal to virtualize 75 percent of its network by 2020.

“Traditionally, we relied on specialized hardware like routers, switches and firewalls to move voice calls and data across our network,” Fuetsch said in an interview with FierceTelecom. “These devices were reliable, but not ideal for today’s data and video usage, which demand faster and less cumbersome solutions. So we’re moving to software. Just like consumers have replaced CD players with streaming music apps on their phones, we’re turning our network gear into virtual software running on standard servers.”

Fuetsch is also involved with AT&T’s move into open source software and other open standards, and its engagement and collaboration with the broader developer community. The telco plans to release its ECOMP platform into open source with the Linux Foundation in early 2017, for example, allowing other service providers and cloud developers to use it.

To keep up with the influx of connected devices, AT&T’s software efforts are being extended to provide analytics and automation capabilities. Specifically, Fuetsch is creating teams of developers and researchers that are focused on this area, building tools that can sort and analyze flows of data in order to identify video files or help customers respond to changing network conditions, for example. In tandem with its analytics and automation development, AT&T says robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming adept at menial work like data entry, freeing up human workers to focus on more demanding tasks. The AT&T Foundry has conducted early work on RPA.

As if driving the company’s software vision is not enough, Fuetsch is also leading AT&T’s research into Project AirGig, a technology developed by AT&T Labs with the aim of delivering low-cost, multi-gigabit wireless internet speeds using existing power lines. AT&T claims what’s different about its powerline approach is that it runs data alongside, rather than within, the power line itself on medium voltage power lines.

While it’s going to take time to see how these initiatives pan out, it’s clear that Feutsch is leading efforts that are going to change how consumers and businesses communicate with one another.