The Evolution of a Telephone Network

  • Approximately 5 petabytes of IP data are carried across the network each day.
  • AT&T GNOC manages this surge of IP data traffic and responds dynamically to changes in demand.

As a child, you may have played word association.  I’ll bet if the word, “AT&T” was given, you would have responded: “Telephone Company.”  We all would have.

Today, force of habit might result in your saying the same thing; but, nothing could be further from the truth.  Now, the AT&T Network is far and away an IP data network. Voice is merely one of a multitude of applications running on it.

In fact, AT&T always carried more than voice calls. There was telegraph until the early 1900’s. In the 1930’s we transmitted radio programs and “wired” photographs (an early form of fax) for newspapers. Beginning in the late 1940’s, we carried television programs. And in the 1950’s when computers started “talking,” we introduced the first modem. Remember those? But through it all; voice (or long distance) represented the majority of the total traffic on the AT&T Network.

Then, the Internet changed everything.

In 2000, the volume of data traffic exceeded voice traffic. By the end of 2005, the network carried approximately 5 petabytes of IP data a day. (A petabyte is approximately 1000 trillion bytes.) Today, this number is close to 50 petabytes a day. That’s a 1000% increase!

Imagine a stack of music CD’s about 63 miles high, that’s what 50 petabytes looks like.

Now, that is Big Data — really Big Data!

Managing this astronomical growth of IP data traffic is a key responsibility of the AT&T Global Network Operations Center (GNOC) in Bedminster, New Jersey. The GNOC oversees the integration of new capacity into the Network, while proactively managing the capacity already in place.  In so doing, it can adapt and respond dynamically and automatically to ongoing changes in demand.  And all this is done without interrupting our customer’s existing business.

Consider how the AT&T Network handled the September 2013 introduction of Apple iOS 7software.

The following graph, displayed prominently in the GNOC, tracks the volume on AT&T’s IP Backbone. The purple represents the volume during the current day.  The yellow line represents the demand of one week ago, which serves as the predictor for the current day.



Here’s the IP Backbone graph the day iOS 7 was introduced. Note the significant increase in the evening hours.



And while traffic on the IP Backbone was increasing beyond the norm, there was a corresponding drop in voice calls and text messaging. Remember, while you’re downloading, you are not using your mobile device in the predictable way.



Think of it this way: One application — the downloading of new smartphone software — markedly changes the normal demand curves of the AT&T Network. Thanks to the proactive management of the GNOC, however, the network responds in real-time and successfully meets the expectations of all users, not just those downloading the new software.

It’s more than just talk!  It’s a multitude of bandwidth-hungry applications that have to be managed in real-time.  See how we do it.  Ask your AT&T representative to arrange a visit to the Global Network Operations Center.

Learn more about AT&T network solutions.

Steve Moser Network Visitor Program Manager AT&T About Steve