AT&T exec: VoLTE launch is one 'beachhead' project in User-Defined Network Cloud efforts

NEW YORK--AT&T Mobility's (NYSE: T) forthcoming launch of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) is one iteration of its "User-Defined Network Cloud" SDN and NFV efforts, and part of its strategy of starting to roll out "beachhead" projects this year that demonstrate new networking capabilities, according to an AT&T executive.  

User-Defined Network Cloud is the marketing term AT&T has given to the technologies and experiences its "Domain 2.0" program for vendors enables. The entire program is based around using Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) to not only cut down costs and turn hardware-based network functions into software-based ones, but also facilitate the deployment of new services.  

In an interview with FierceWirelessTech, Marian Croak, AT&T's senior vice president of Domain 2.0 architecture and advanced services development, discussed VoLTE in the context of the new efforts. She said that while AT&T's initial User-Defined Network Cloud may have initially been focused on wireline networks (as Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network architecture and planning at AT&T Labs noted earlier this year), AT&T is pursuing many projects related to its wireless networks.

"It's become so popular that all new programs going forward are trying to adhere to the principles of Domain 2.0 or the User-Defined Network Cloud," Croak said. "So even things like VoLTE that was recently announced and that we'll be entering into markets in, and HD Voice. They are beachhead projects now. So the underlying network to support Voice over LTE and the IMS piece of that will be virtualized and will run in a cloud."

AT&T intends to launch HD Voice services using VoLTE in a handful of markets starting May 23. The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini will be the first device that can use the service, and it will expand the service to additional phones in the future.  

AT&T said its VoLTE-powered HD Voice service will launch in select areas in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and it will expand to more markets later.

Although VoLTE represents a big change in the way voice conversations are transmitted over the wireless network--conversations are transmitted via IP technology over LTE rather than via circuit-switched connections--AT&T said in its announcement of VoLTE last week only that customers can expect "crystal clear conversations" and made no other mention of any other VoLTE-powered services.

Croak was speaking after an event AT&T held here on Friday to highlight User-Defined Network Cloud projects and its plans to transform its network. The beachhead projects are going to be a progressive series of announcements that demonstrate AT&T's transition to an IP network and its embrace of SDN and NFV. AT&T intends to unveil several beachhead projects this year and will continually do so through 2020.

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