AT&T’s Fuetsch: Vendors need to deliver on openness, standards and intelligence gathering

Andre Fuetsch
AT&T's Andre Fuetsch said it's not often these types of opportunities exist to really change the game.

SAN FRANCISCO—There are just three things that the vendor community could provide their operator partners during this time of transformation: openness, standardization and intelligence gathering.

That’s according to Andre Fuetsch, president and CTO, AT&T Labs, who was asked during a fireside chat on Wednesday during Mobile World Congress Americas just what the industry needs from its vendors to bring a stronger partnership in the drive to 5G.

“You don’t get these opportunities very often to really change the game,” he said.

One could argue that the transformations the industry has seen over the successive generations have been more about speed, scale and the economics, he said, but he used the analogy that whereas 4G is like a really good, loud rock band, 5G is more of a finely tuned orchestra with a wide, dynamic range to solve many different use cases.

To take full advantage of that, he suggested there are probably three things everyone needs from the vendor community: openness, standardization and intelligence gathering.

Openness is required because the next generation of gear needs to be much more open than the industry traditionally has seen, and by openness, “this is what’s going to drive much better service experiences because we can get at the data,” and see not just how a device is performing but how an application or session is performing.

As for standardization, “we’ve got to standardize on this and really avoid proprietary-ness as much as possible,” he said. “We really need a healthy ecosystem here.” There’s also a lot of incumbents that have been in this space for a long time, “but there’s also a lot of really powerful new innovation coming from disrupters, and we’d like to see a good healthy ecosystem that embraces both.”

The intelligence he referred to is really around data analytics and getting at the data through standards and open interfaces, “so that we can begin to do some really proactive game changing things using machine learning, artificial intelligence—so that we can prepare and create services that aren’t just a big loud pipe but that developers can really rely on the network to make their applications much, much better.”

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AT&T has been a big believer in open source and sees 5G as a tremendous opportunity to make the network more relevant. He said the company felt it was important to take a leadership position; a lot of early trial work with pre-standards was done to gain insights and provide feedback into the standards work, which the company is hopeful will be done by the December deadline for the non-standalone piece of 5G NR.