AT&T's investment in open, high-speed networks will not only allow users to accelerate access to content and communication, but will empower the service provider to enhance customer service in new ways.
The CSP's focus on open, standards-based networks enables it to tap into smaller and startup app developers for specialized solutions, said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and chief technology officer at AT&T, in an interview with UBB2020. And the network's speeds support AT&T's growing use of artificial intelligence, analytics and machine learning for improved customer support.
"This architecture we're building, this open architecture -- Indigo -- is not only about supplying the software-defined architecture but also all the information, all the data coming off this network goes into a platform that then can be utilized to derive insights," he said.
With the right user permissions, AT&T's DirecTV app could connect to subscribers' calendars recognizing, for example, when they have a flight coming up that could be filled with pre-cached content based on their viewing histories, said Fuetsch. Likewise, individuals could opt to receive abbreviated news shows based on either personal preferences or viewer trends, allowing them to catch up on a 60-minute segment in ten or 15 free minutes, he added.
"There are many other use-cases here where being data-powered and having this direct connection to the customer, the consumer, can create a much more enriched experience," said Fuetsch. "And that's what this whole networking transformation we're on is helping enable."
Send in the Drones
AT&T started several Indigo initiatives to resolve business problems. A cell-tower maintenance program, for example, saves the CSP money and time and boosts customer satisfaction, but also opens up new lines of business opportunity, Fuetsch said.
The company must maintain its 65,000 cell towers, a process that typically involves sometimes dangerous manpower as engineers or technicians climb the structures to check conditions. AT&T now uses camera-equipped drones to view towers from afar, often avoiding downtime due to preventive maintenance, he said.
"We're now taking that video and processing it through machine learning application and... as the video is streaming it's actually looking for signatures of potential problems on that cell tower. So it could be something like cabling corrosion or a waterproofing issue or perhaps there's a bird's nest that now all of a sudden appeared," said Fuetsch. "The machine learning actually builds and learns a repository of these potential issues. Instead of relying on a technician who would have to spend time to look at -- not just minutes but potentially hours of videos -- to look for these potential issues, the machine learning can automatically, real-time, identify these potential problems and alert the right course of action to take."
In addition, AT&T is incorporating traffic, weather and other local data into the Indigo-based solution it uses to schedule technicians. This allows AT&T to provide consumers with shorter service windows, enables customers and technicians to communicate with each other before the appointment and provides subscribers with a photo and name of their technician, he said.
"We're doing a lot of things to improve the pre-, during and post-experience for that customer and a lot of it is very data analytics driven," said Fuetsch.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.