BARCELONA, Spain—AT&T’s ambitions to expand far beyond its core wireless business aren’t limited to consumer entertainment services such as DirecTV Now. And they certainly aren’t limited to the U.S.
No other U.S. mobile network operator has been as aggressive in its pursuit of cross-platform digital media and advertising as AT&T has. In addition to its $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV, it hopes to shell out $85.4 billion more to pick up Time Warner.
But Thaddeus Arroyo, who in December was tapped to take the reins from Ralph de la Vega as CEO of Business Solutions and AT&T International, is tasked with growing the carrier’s presence among the enterprise around the world. (de la Vega retired at the end of the year.)
Network virtualization, Arroyo said, is a major weapon for AT&T in the international business world.
“If you think about many of the trends around this—the cloud, collaboration—it’s really all about the capabilities that allow them to take place,” he said at Mobile World Congress '17. “Those capabilities are now what we can extend to businesses. Because our network is far more flexible now, because it is software-defined, we can give that control to businesses.”
AT&T has been vocal about its efforts to virtualize its network, of course. Roughly 34% of the network was virtualized by the end of last year, and 55% is scheduled to be virtualized by the end of this year as the carrier works toward its goal of having as much as 75% virtualized by 2020.
The most immediate benefit of that virtualization would appear to be internal: It will enable AT&T to optimize services and tweak capacity quickly and easily, and to deploy upgrades via software rather than sending armies of workers out to climb towers.
But it will also allow the operator to provide next-generation services as a wide variety of businesses increasingly look to leverage the cloud. And because these services will run virtually, AT&T can look to potential customers far beyond its traditional network footprint.
“Really what we’re doing is delivering [services] safely into the cloud without touching the public internet,” Arroyo said. “I can offer over-the-top … and it doesn't have to be on my transport."