The beast is back, but it's a whole new jungle

CHICAGO?Like the liquid-metal killer cyborg of Terminator II, the dismembered AT&T Corp. has coalesced into a unified telecommunications entity. But the world into which the new AT&T has emerged is drastically different from the one it once ruled.

"Never before have we witnessed the level of dependence on communication that exists today," CTO John Stankey said Tuesday at the GlobalComm trade show. "We now have multiple networks delivering data and services to different endpoints."

This has resulted in wasteful duplication and complexity that the industry is beginning to address.

"We now are on the cusp of a fundamental shift to convergence, bringing everything to a single IP network," Stankey said. And AT&T plans to ride that convergence to its former dominance.

The current fragmented environment is the result of two decades of development of new services and new networks to deliver them. New voice, video and data services are being delivered to an increasingly diverse range of fixed and mobile endpoints over wired and wireless links. Development and demand has remained constant despite the dot-com and telecom bust of the late 1990s that took much of the wind out of the economy's sails.

"This is the healthiest it has been since the mid-1990s, at the height of the dot-com boom," Stankey said.

Stankey announced plans for consolidation and upgrade of AT&T's core networks to a single IP network that will use Multiprotocol Label Switching. The company will launch an upgraded OC-768 MPLS photonic switching network between 31 metro areas in the United States this year. The network, part of an $8.5 billion upgrade plan, will quadruple network bandwidth and see initial deployment and service in early 2007, he said.

The recombining of various Baby Bell entities into AT&T, most recently with the SBC acquisition of the former parent company, provided the critical mass in IP traffic to make the upgrade economically feasible, Stankey said. That recombination will continue with the pending acquisition of Bell South and Cingular Wireless, providing an extensive integrated wired and wireless network.

AT&T also intends to increase its service offerings using the IP Multimedia Subsystem on its consolidated backbone. IMS is an emerging network switching architecture that ties together all types of voice, video and data services over any type of wired or wireless network to any type of end device. The carrier will offer services for voice, video and data services that will manage everything from the networks to the customer premises equipment.

William Jackson is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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