AT&T's innovation center

In addition to the Plano facility, AT&T is going to open innovation centers later this year in Palo Alto, Calif., and Ra'anana, near Tel Aviv, Israel, and each will have a specific focus.

The Palo Alto center will focus on consumer-facing solutions and products; Plano will be focused on serving AT&T's large enterprise customers like General Motors; and the facility in Israel will primarily work on services that AT&T uses in IT and back-office systems. AT&T also will pipe in via optical cables its IPTV services and, via network edge equipment, its forthcoming LTE network. AT&T is partnering with Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs and Ericsson, with Cisco and Juniper Networks also on board as infrastructure providers and collaborators.

Peter Hill, AT&T's vice president of ecosystems and innovation, said the carrier can accomplish more when it is reaching out to and collaborating with partners.

He explained that there are three "tracks" that the centers will take: One is the "open track," where developers who, for example, want to write a software app that works with LTE can come in and test it. Another track is the "enhanced track," where a developer can get help from AT&T or its partners on product design or technologies like IMS. And the third track is the "guided track," where AT&T can work with developers and the venture capital community in Palo Alto to create solutions 

AT&T also is committed to meeting with 400 startup firms in a fast-pitch format to solicit their concepts, Hill said. "Whether the answer is yes or no, they will get a fast reaction from AT&T," he said.

AT&T's innovation center