AT&T's Donovan: Success brings visibility

BARCELONA, Spain--It's no secret that AT&T Mobility's network has faced a firestorm of criticism over the past year thanks to prodigious growth in mobile data traffic from smartphone customers, particularly those using Apple's iPhone. In an interview with FierceWireless, John Donovan, AT&T's CTO, said that he doesn't believe that the company has been unfairly singled out for its network issues. "Success brings visibility," Donovan said.

However, he added that network bandwidth issues are not isolated to AT&T, and that based upon industry statistics showing high growth in mobile data, many other mobile operators will be facing similar issues. He called this a "new era in wireless" and compared consuming wireless data with pre-washed vegetables. "We are making it easier for consumers to consume data, and so they are."

Donovan also praised the GSM Association's Wholesale Applications Community initiative announced on Monday (AT&T is a member of that initiative), explaining that this is just a natural outgrowth of many of AT&T's efforts to bring common APIs to developers so they can develop applications across multiple networks.

Indeed, at last year's Mobile World Congress, AT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph de la Vega said during his keynote address that the multitude of operating systems (at least nine), numerous device makers and swarms of application developers (and app stores) were creating "islands of innovations" that limit growth.  "We are experiencing success, but it feels like 2002," de la Vega said at the time.

During the interview, which covered a range of topics, Donovan also pinpointed three technology areas that he believes are going to be key in the years ahead. First, he said he believes there will be a lot more discussion of how to get more out of an HSPA network. Second, he said there will be a lot of interest in a more widely distributed network--meaning things like off-loading traffic to WiFi and in-building technologies. And third, he said he believes that the next phase in application development will be the launch of toolkits for developers that will make app development much easier and quicker. He said once that happens, he believes there will be an emergence of application designers.

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