RealTime IT News

After Concert, AT&T Shows It Goes On

With the dream of a worldwide enterprise audience playing to the tune of AT&T and British Telecom's Concert in tatters, AT&T announced Wednesday its plans to integrate their existing European network.

Concert, an ambitious program launched by the two telephone giants in 1998, fell victim to tepid demand and over-capacity with the end result of annual losses of $800 million over the course of the venture. AT&T announced in October 2001 the dissolution of the venture and launched "Plan B" for global business services.

Dave Dorman, AT&T president, unveiled Plan B to analysts in a press conference Wednesday morning, a process that includes the formal end to Concert and the integration and migration of existing European enterprise into the corporate fold, be it AT&T or BT.

"(Existing Concert contracts) remain in place for customers who bought the service in multiple locations through commercial agreements that we still maintain with BT through the three-year transition," Dorman said. "We didn't want to put a gun to the customers head and say, 'You have to move over to the AT&T global network next week.' The customer gets the final say in whether they want AT&T or BT to manage their account.

AT&T officials said they are pumping $300 million into their former Concert network to finish integration of their 5,000 employees in Europe into the AT&T network and to roll out new enterprise-class services throughout the 59 countries they current serve.

By year's end officials expect to have their managed services portfolio (MSP) of services available in more than 80 countries throughout the world using their new package of corporate services. To do that, technicians revamped their $200 million integrated global enterprise management systems (iGEM) to incorporate current Concert customers and new worldwide businesses and expect to spend another $300 million to add 80 nodes throughout Europe, primarily.

The key, officials say, is making one integrated network platform on a global stage. Dorman doesn't expect to build out any more of its fiber-optic network, which it bought from IBM in 1998, going forward. "We're not going to build, we'll use what we have and buy or lease what we don't," he said.

To do that, AT&T can fall back on investments made in the past with AT&T Canada, AT&T Latin America, Alestra (a Mexico telecom) and Shanghai Symphony Telecom.

With their network in place, AT&T plans to spend the next couple years developing services to get customers on the AT&T roster. After the money-draining experience learned at Concert, officials realize services will get customers signed up.

"We're going to build on the edge (of the network) now," Dorman said. He refers to network edge services like virtual private networks and security applications that are added at AT&T data centers and nodes to bring value-added services to businesses.

Customers can already get an idea of what the new global AT&T network will look like for customers in the future with the launch of two global enterprise VPN services, announced Wednesday with the news about life post-Concert.

Available to existing AT&T Enterprise VPN Services customers, companies can opt to either beef up their frame relay wide area network (WAN) with either multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) or create a new VPN using AT&T's network to make an corporate intranet using IPSec technology.

AT&T also beefed up their MSP to bring more businesses into the fold, though initially it will only be available to customers in New York and New Jersey.

AT&T Ultravailable Wavelength Service lets smaller companies get the same level of network availability, security, recovery, management and monitoring services normally only extended (or cost-effective) to large corporations. Officials expect the service expand throughout the U.S. in the next 12 to 18 months, though consumer demand could hasten or slow the deployment.

Not surprisingly, Gary Hilbert, AT&T vice president of high availability and security services, expects the programs to be a success.

"In today's economy, every company needs cost-effective, survivable and flexible network-centric solutions,'' he said. "We address the full spectrum of a customer's business continuity needs, from developing relatively straightforward disaster recovery plans to designing survivable networks, and providing complex business continuity solutions -- all in a secure environment."