CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — AT&T's (booth #4001 and the Title Sponsor) channel chief showcased the strong relationship between fiber, 5G and the Internet of Things during his keynote Wednesday at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo.
Zee Hussain, channel chief of AT&T Partner Solutions, shared his company's vision for the upcoming year with a large audience of channel partners.
Hussain said cloud, mobility, Internet of Things (IoT), security and artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the hottest technologies that partners are looking to adopt.
"If you leverage these 'mega-trends,' you can successfully make this digital transformation, and AT&T sees this," he said.
But one of the pillars of AT&T's strategy is fiber. AT&T has more a global fiber route of than 1.1 million and is aiming to expand its footprint. AT&T Partner Exchange Vice President Randall Porter told us last month that an enlarged national fiber network will open the door for partner opportunities.
Hussain said Wednesday that having fiber in a customer's building allows partners to offer a full menu of connectivity services.
"[They can] scale them and provision them in an on-demand manner," Hussain said. "Also, when we have fiber in the facilities, we're able to pass on the cost economics to you to make you stand out in the market from a financial standpoint."
And fiber is paving the way for 5G connectivity. Hussain said AT&T plans to release 5G services in 12 markets this year.
He quoted Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon, who said at this year's Consumer Electronics Show said that 5G is "the new electricity."
"We believe it," Hussain said. "5G is going to be game-changing, and 5G is not just about 'another 'G, even though the speed is going to measured in multiple gigabytes."
One lab test showed 4G as 14 times faster than 4G LTE, but the big differentiation for Hussain is single-digit round-trip latency.
"MIT scientists said that the human brain, when it looks at an image, takes 13 milliseconds to process it. We are seeing 5G latency at 9 milliseconds in our test markets," he said. "Think about what that unleashes."
Hussain reports that traffic activity on AT&T's network has increased by 250,000 percent in the past 10 years and will increase by at least a factor of 10 in the next five years.
"You cannot go and build a network in a linear manner when the demands on your network are exponential, and they're only going to grow," he said.
There are currently about 38 million IoT-enabled devices on the AT&T network, according to Hussain, but he predicts that the adoption of 5G will lead to an explosion of edge devices.
AT&T has publicly stated the goal of "decoupling hardware from software" as the need for bandwidth grows.
"That's why fundamentally we're changing our approach, where we used to just throw more and more hardware, more switches, more routers, more firewalls and proprietary boxes with proprietary software out there to solve the problem. Because it takes weeks and months, and it takes years to get those things tested out," he said.
The goal is to virtualize features like firewall so that AT&T can more quickly upgrade its network and push out new features to customers.
AT&T announced earlier this week that it will bring together its Partner Exchange and Alliance Channel summits together for a single event in the fall.