AT&T’s $1 billion bandwidth boost a boon for Canadian MNCs

AT&T Inc. hopes to help their Canadian multi-national enterprise clients conduct business on a global scale with a $1 billion infrastructure investment.

The upgrade to the San Antonio, Texas-based telecommunications company’s network will see new undersea fiber optic cables laid, and existing cables enhanced to boost bandwidth into Asia and Australia. Money is also going into the expansion of existing data centers and the company’s first in Canada.

“What’s really driving this investment is the globalization of the corporate environment,” says Steve Taylor, vice president of sales for AT&T’s Canada division.

“I’m dealing with clients that are trying to expand into other regions around the world,” he continues. “They’re telling me Canada will no longer be the biggest place where they’re getting their revenue.”

AT&T’s investment is a welcome boost to the industry, says Roberta Fox, senior partner of Mount Albert, Ont.-based Fox Group Telecom Consulting. Increasing data growth means companies are demanding more bandwidth, she said.

“We’re going to run out of capacity, the pipes have to get bigger,” Fox says. “It’s a positive sign for the telecom industry that a vendor is investing.”

AT&T provides service levels at nearly 100 per cent, but sees room for improvement, according to Joe Lueckenhoff, senior vice president of product management for AT&T. Last year’s series of undersea cable disruptions appear to be top of mind for the company.

“Recent cable cuts in Europe and Asia show we need to further improve resiliency and re-routing capability,” he says.

AT&T has the largest private fleet of cable-laying ships in the world, and operates its global network on 71 undersea cables laid over 450,000 miles, Lueckenhoff adds.

Canadian companies using AT&T’s services will be able to offer more real-time content delivery to customers abroad through expanded the data centers, according to David Denault, general manager for AT&T Global Services Canada.

They’re also responding to companies desire to use IP-based networks.

AT&T hosts applications remotely in its data centers around the world, putting the enterprise closer to its foreign customers in geographic terms, he explains. The company is expanding its data center footprint by 180,000 square feet by mid-2009.

Toronto will see part of that new square footage, a Canadian first for the company. That data center will open later this month, Taylor says.

The company also announced it is releasing new application performance management tools with its BusinessDirect portal. This gives businesses more tools to manage their network performance.

Canadian clients using the tool will benefit from this in a big way, analyst Fox says.

“One of the challenges in managing global networks is you have to usually develop your own performance management tools,” she says. “If you’re a Canadian division of a global AT&T customer and using their tools, I think that’s very powerful.”

Canadian clients using AT&T services are the smaller divisions of large, multi-national companies, Fox adds. “They still have to take care of us.”

BusinessDirect allows customers to trouble shoot their networks, order components they need, and monitor network performance, Taylor says. It is designed to give an overview of networks across many countries, or drill down to get inventory specifics of one site.

AT&T could further its base of Canadian customers if it went to a channel option as it has in the U.S., Fox says. The approach could open up its services to the top 5,000 Canadian companies instead of the top 500.

“They’ve really tapped out the U.S. market, and in order to grow revenue, you have to go international,” she says.

But AT&T has no plans to go to channels in Canada, according to representatives Taylor and Denault.

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