After 27 years with AT&T, Andre Fuetsch, Executive Vice President & CTO of Network Services, plans to retire from AT&T in September.
An AT&T email to Fierce Wireless said, “We recently shared that Igal Elbaz will take over leading our Chief Network Technology and AT&T Labs organizations reporting to our CTO Jeremy Legg.
According to Legg’s LinkedIn profile, he was just promoted to CTO in May. Previously, he was EVP of AT&T Communications and CTO of Technology Services for two years. Prior to AT&T, Legg was CTO of WarnerMedia, and before that he was CTO of Turner Broadcasting System.
The rumor that Fuetsch was retiring from AT&T was first reported by TelecomTV. The news outlet said that some unnamed sources said AT&T had decided it’s time for a change in network technology strategy and that a new CTO is needed to see that through.
In its email to Fierce, AT&T said only, “We will continue to have a global leadership role in developing and deploying the latest advanced network technologies.”
AT&T was an early telecom leader in software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). Both Fuetsch and Chris Rice, who was previously SVP of AT&T Labs, led the charge on those technologies under the leadership of former AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan.
Rice left the company in 2020 and later became CEO of Access Solutions with STL.
Fuetsch is still chairman of the O-RAN Alliance, and his departure raises the question: how committed is AT&T to network virtualization and to open RAN?
AvidThink principal Roy Chua said, “From my perspective, AT&T has been systematically undoing a lot of their previous investment in open networking, Domain 2.0, and open-source efforts since John Donovan's departure in 2019. The largest move was adoption of Microsoft Azure to run their 5G mobile core, and turning over their network cloud assets and talent.”
Chua said in some sense, AT&T’s infrastructure moves mirror that of the overall streamlining of its business with the WarnerMedia divestiture and spinning off DirectTV to TPG Capital.
“Facing Verizon with strong investments in a wide variety of FWA, business edge and private 5G offerings, and T-Mobile with an ever-growing 5G network with decent capacity, and newcomer Dish with a cloud-native, disaggregated platform, it's going to be interesting to see if a return to core and a slimmed-down infrastructure platform is enough for AT&T to differentiate itself,” said Chua.