The End of the Beginning of the IP Transition

Posted by: Bob Quinn on November 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Much has been written over the 12 months that have passed since AT&T filed its request for the Federal Communications Commission to oversee trials to facilitate the industry’s continued transition from aging communication platforms and services to new services based fully on Internet Protocol (“IP”). One important highlight in all that has been written is the vast number of customers, both business and residential, that already have made the transition. But to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill, this is not the end of the transition, it is not even the beginning of the end of the transition, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning of the transition.

We have been very clear about our efforts to transform our network to one that is all Internet Protocol (IP). Our request for the Commission to oversee trials came on the same day we announced Project Velocity IP, a multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment plan to accelerate the historic national transition to all-IP networks and services, and we announced in our Annual Report that we expect to have fully transitioned our customers from decades-old technologies to an all-Internet Protocol network architecture by 2020.

The National Broadband Plan recognizes this transition as one that will bring “extraordinary opportunities to improve American life and benefit consumers” and the Commission’s efforts since the plan was published have set as an “express goal” facilitating the transition from traditional, TDM-based networks to all-IP networks and services. We all know, however, that while setting a worthwhile goal is important, executing a plan to achieve that goal is where much of the hard work takes place. As we approach the end of the beginning of the IP transition AT&T has begun the hard work of executing such a plan.

The first step of that plan is to align the commitments we make to our customers with the goal of transitioning to an all-IP network. That is why today we have taken a step to make sure that multi-year commitments we enter into today for aging TDM-based services reflect the on-going transition to IP and do not extend beyond the expected completion of our transition in 2020. Taking this step ensures we keep the commitments we enter into with our customers. In industry jargon, we are “grandfathering” these longer term plans for TDM-based services (i.e., allow those that have it to keep it but not enter in to new long term plans for these services).

The tariff changes filed today will grandfather DS1 and DS3 term plans greater than 36 months, including ones that have term periods as long as seven years. These changes are scheduled to become effective on December 10, 2013. Other tariffed term plans of shorter durations will continue to be available to all customers. Importantly, customers also will continue to have the opportunity to negotiate individualized contracts with AT&T to obtain these services.

Over the last 30 days, we’ve reviewed input and feedback from our customers regarding these tariff changes. We thank them for their input and suggestions. Although many customers are already moving to replace TDM services with IP-based services, we understand that others may be on a longer migration path to IP and that, as a result, may want to continue to purchase TDM services in the near term.  As discussions continue between AT&T, our wholesale customers and the FCC, we will be flexible to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers throughout the course of the entire TDM-to-IP transition.

The benefits of IP are significant. The IP network will be modern — more efficient, more versatile, and more resilient than a traditional TDM network. IP services also provide new capabilities and an improved customer experience. The conversion will facilitate the migration of customers from aging technologies to new IP-based services that consumers and businesses demand.

Providing notice of our intention to make these tariff changes begins a process of exploring with our customers the newer services that will take their businesses well into this century, services that can seamlessly cope with the dynamic mix of voice, video and data that make up today’s (and tomorrow’s) communications marketplace.

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