AT&T CTO: We’re just getting started with mobile data

For all the guff AT&T gets about its mobile data usage in major cities, I’m pretty glad they have John Donovan as its Chief Technology Officer.

Donovan’s an interesting cat. A self-proclaimed gadget freak, he carriers an HTC Android device (Aria?), a BlackBerry Bold, an iPhone 4, a Kindle, an iPad and other things. I’m sure we could find a few IntoMobile readers rocking that kind of gear but Donovan takes it up a notch by wearing a body measurement sensor that measures body temperature, sweat composition and more.

I mention this because it seems like he truly gets what mobile is enabling and how users want to consume content. The line between what is a TV, DVR and phone is quickly blurring, Donovan said, and AT&T is rapidly investing its network to provide the “oxygen” for this type of environment to flourish.

“We’re at the beginning of the growth curve [for mobile data] – we’re really just getting started,” Donovan said at MobileBeat 2010.

He said there will always be a preference for mobile as the starting point for consumption. Sure, the infrastructure providers want to get that data under the ground as soon as possible (to its wired backbones) but users want the freedom that mobile offers.

Donovan said the company is preparing for three phases of mobile data consumption. We’re in the first phase right now with traditional, if a bit accelerated, data usage.

The next phase will start in 2011 and AT&T calls this the “app ready” period where video will start to emerge. This is when the company expects to begin deploying its 4G network based on Long-Term Evolution.

The third phase will begin in 2014 and this will include a ton of point-to-point video and other programs that will maximize that LTE network.

Moving forward, Donovan said he expects consumers to move away from franchises. Instead, users will determine what app, screen size, device or whatever appeals to them and find the right service for that.

This type of future could lead to every carrier’s worst nightmare: being a dumb pipe. But Donovan thinks companies like AT&t will be more than just dumb pipes because of its value to the ecosystem.

If apps are going to be the next wave in computing, you’re going to have to find a way to get the app developers paid in a frictionless way. AT&T said it can be best positioned to allow this to happen.

Additionally, Donovan called APIs the new IPs because the provider with the most tools for developers will be the most attractive to consumers.

AT&T routinely touts its investments in mobile data networks and Donovan said this will continue in the future.

“We will move heaven and earth to get out in front of this demand,” Donovan said.

So, this all sounds well and good – you’d kind of expect someone in his position to articulate this type of future at an event like this. Unquestionably, this seems like the trend for mobile data and services, now let’s see how well AT&t can adapt.

Back to top ▴