Cross-Carrier, Cross-OS Mobile Solutions From AT&T (No – This Is Not a Typo!)

When it comes to delivering mobile, all established paradigms need to be questioned, and we can start with a common one right here: If you are deploying a mobile solution, the mobile carrier can only provide a solution for you if it’s on their network and will force you to move all of your users to its network. In fact, don’t hire a mobile carrier to do this at all – carriers are inherently biased towards their own networks or to particular hardware and mobile operating systems.

Now – before we go any further – do a gut check.  Was that your assumption coming into this article?

If it was, it’s not surprising. Not too long ago, carriers wanted to be a one stop providers for all of your communications needs. In choosing a network provider, businesses were effectively selecting what services, solutions and applications they could use. Telecoms were typically very concerned about reliability and control and tended to go with proprietary in-house solutions that could be tightly managed. Not a bad approach for reliability, but it had the downside of not keeping up with the innovations and advantages of other solutions coming from the ecosystem.

Fast forward a few years and the entire landscape of the wireless world has changed.  We’ve moved into a smartphone- and tablet-dominated universe in which “there is always an app for whatever you might think of.” The marriage of mobile with cloud has driven innovation to an all-time high, and cycles of change are shorter than ever before.

In the meantime, as our customer embraced smartphones and tablets of every variety, we started embracing the cross-operating system (OS) universe in our desire to support them. And by working with customers, we came to accept that they needed not only cross-OS, but also cross-carrier services – from a global perspective, a regional perspective (if we had coverage challenges) or frankly just from a preference perspective.

Of course, we’d still love to have all our enterprise mobility customers use AT&T wireless services on their devices. But we know that’s not necessarily the case. Here are my top three reasons for embracing interoperability:

  1. BYOD. When employees bring their own devices to work, they also bring their own carriers. Companies that allow BYOD need to purchase mobile apps that function on any network – otherwise, they exclude certain workers from the benefits of mobility. To understand the full implications of the trend, consider this: Forrester Research estimates that 200 million people will use their personal smartphones or tablets for work by 2016.
  2. Globalization. As small businesses and large enterprises alike extend their operations across international borders, it’s increasingly important for carriers to deliver solutions that work on a global scale. Interoperability helps ensure that employees in Japan can use the same mobile apps as those in the U.K. – regardless of whether or not they have the same network provider.
  3. Developer Requirements. Developers demand open ecosystems for building and designing applications. Many use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that enable them to deploy apps across different devices and networks, allowing them to make the most of their time and efforts. As a result of the developer community’s influence, cross-carrier solutions have grown increasingly common. It’s now more of an expectation than an exception to find apps that work on any network.

With this in mind, AT&T’s advanced mobile solutions business unit has fully embraced cross-OS and cross-carrier solutions and currently provides these services to tens of thousands of customers – many of whom are deploying these solutions across multiple carrier networks and devices. It’s a pragmatic approach that aligns with the changing environment.

Let’s hear from you. We welcome all comments – positive, constructive and even negative as long as it’s civil! Do you think we’ve lost our mind in going cross carrier?  What other old paradigms would you like to see us challenge? What other trends do you see as influential in the shift toward cross-carrier solutions?
Abhi Ingle Big Data and Advanced Solutions Senior Vice President AT&T About Abhi