AT&T drafts strategies to take on IT giants in IoT business

IoT network
Wireless major AT&T is poised to disrupt the traditional IT hierarchy in the commercial Internet of Things (IoT) landscape, says Daniel Callahan, analyst at TBR.

Intercepting emerging business deployments with its integrated suite of IoT and services capabilities will challenge the status quo of how IoT is constructed at the edge and moved to public cloud. Like other major IT players, AT&T aims to evolve into a full-stack IoT provider offering an end-to-end secured solution to customers.

AT&T’s ability to challenge existing IT vendors with this integrated suite of capabilities revolves around its M2X platform and Flow Designer cloud-based development tool, combined with scalable connectivity solution AT&T Network On Demand and security enabler AT&T NetBond. The combination, highlighted at its 2016 Analyst Summit in Dallas, will make the company an easier choice for customers seeking reduced complexity in their IoT deployments as it allows them to easily purchase an IoT platform, edge solutions, scalable connectivity and security from one vendor.

AT&T’s transformation from ‘telecoms to tech co’ is central to its ability to supply end-to-end IoT TBR believes AT&T’s efforts to deliver a full suite of IoT capabilities, capturing opportunity from other IT vendors, is a result of its efforts to augment its position as a connectivity vendor. AT&T’s success lies in transforming from “telecoms to tech co,” and the company will not limit itself to connecting end-to-end infrastructure.

AT&T will challenge the centralized analytics incumbents, such as IBM, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, in creating solutions, machine learning and delivering transformation. AT&T’s stronger position is encouraging centralized analytics leaders, such as IBM and AWS, to deepen partnerships with the company and leverage AT&T’s solutions to offer customers seamless, simplified conduits onto their clouds.

AT&T will also be leveraged, by customers and partners, for analytics and transformation in areas in which AT&T has long-standing expertise, such as logistics. As the company moves to be more solution-focused, software-centric and ecosystem-enabled, AT&T is retraining its workforce, targeting new hires in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), pursuing the acquisition of startups, and soliciting the developer community through lowcost, high functionality developer kits to develop and test connectivity solutions to meet its IoT goals.

The kits, which begin at $99, come with an IoT device SIM with a six-month developer data plan, offer easy integration with AT&T tools such as M2X and Flow Designer, and are preconfigured to major public cloud vendors. Strong developer support is critical to widespread adoption of AT&T’s IoT platform.

AT&T identified target verticals, such as telematics, smart city and healthcare, for which it will develop applications. AT&T is opening multiple IoT innovation centers globally to encourage internal change, to supercharge the development of solutions in the target verticals, and to provide locations for customers to whiteboard and develop IoT projects.

Currently AT&T has six Foundry centers, including one in Plano, Texas, focused on business and enterprise solutions, and one in Israel specializing in operational efficiency and business process optimization solutions. In June AT&T opened an additional center in Houston that is integrated into the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute and allows medical professionals to develop healthcare solutions with AT&T developers.

AT&T is targeting healthcare as its next growth vertical. However, AT&T realizes it cannot be everywhere and cover every vertical with best-in-class solutions. AT&T is positioning itself as a partner with solutions that can be easily integrated, filling deployment gaps for companies that may have a stronger foothold and more visibility in other geographies and verticals.

To support this position, AT&T will offer operators the ability to build on its ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management & Policy) architecture and build go-to-market alliances with IBM and CSC, expanding AT&T’s reach outside traditional channels. AT&T’s open and cooperative stance will foster high partner and developer activity, which are critical facets of succeeding in the IoT market, and will lead AT&T to become a common vendor for enterprises to evaluate, or partners to leverage, in connecting on-premises deployments to public clouds.

AT&T differentiates by providing end-to-end IoT security Security continues to inhibit customer adoption of IoT. To address that concern, AT&T aims to build a “closed loop” to public cloud providing near end-to-end security to customers. The central element of the closed loop will be AT&T’s NetBond technology, which enables customers to securely connect AT&T private networks to public clouds via VPN technology. This removes customer data from the public internet leading to reduced threat of distributed denial of service (DDoS), ransomware and other malicious activity.


AT&T will also wrap its security with managed services, such as AT&T’s Automated Threat Response, which leverages machine learning insights, sourced from parallel data sets and patterns, to seek out irregularities and apply predictive and preemptive security measures. AT&T’s ability to secure nearly the entire IoT stack from devices to edge computing to public cloud, with the addition of its a managed security, will make it a desirable vendor for customers seeking a hands-off, holistic security solution.

AT&T will partner to complete its IoT stack AT&T aims to provide best-in-class IoT solutions to its customers, and the company is cognizant it cannot provide the entire IoT stack, or first class applications in every vertical, alone. AT&T will rely on systems integrators to expand its channel, and will leverage its ECOMP open-source project to encourage other operators, such as Tier 2s and Tier 3s, to adopt or build on its platform.

AT&T will not have a network everywhere in the world, but it aims to have partners globally through which it can provide software and consulting.

IBM will be leveraging AT&T’s FlexWare solution, allowing IBM to easily manage the hardware and virtual network functions it deploys at the edge. In addition, in July AT&T announced it will develop applications on IBM’s Watson IoT platform, which not only gives AT&T enterprise customers an alternate cloud platform choice, but also provides AT&T access to IBM’s data stores and advanced machine learning to enhance its IoT applications.

AT&T is collaborating with IBM for big data from sources such as The Weather Channel in some of AT&T’s smart city deployments. The two companies will also jointly go to market leveraging their combined sales and marketing efforts, which will be critical for AT&T, increasing its channel and customer pool.

Including its partnerships with Jasper, for machine connectivity, and other public cloud providers for centralized analytics and industry support, AT&T can offer the full IoT stack across many verticals, making it an attractive choice for customers.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, CEO of Business Solutions & International Ralph de la Vega, Senior Vice President of Internet of Things Chris Penrose, Senior Vice President of Advanced Solutions Mo Katibeh and Vice President of Strategy & Business Development, Big Data Chris Parsons were the speakers at the Analyst Summit.