AT&T's Slamecka: EMEA businesses are "a sweet spot" for its integrated solutions

AT&T may be best known as one of the largest operators in its domestic market of the U.S., however the company is also heavily involved in other global markets.

Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is the largest of those overseas markets for the company, John V Slamecka, AT&T’s region president, Global Business, EMEA told FierceWireless:Europe.

AT&T serves 23 markets in Europe alone, including the big five countries that comprise Western Europe, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic, and Switzerland. The company also counts the Nordics and Russia among its EMEA division.

While Slamecka told FW:E that the company does not “break out business revenues per geographical region,” he explained that AT&T works with some of the largest companies in the region. “Our customers make up 59 per cent of the FTSE 100, more than 90 percent of the CAC 40, and over 85 per cent of the DAX,” referring to the stock indexes of the UK, France, and Germany respectively.

The company offers a range of mobility and secure cloud connectivity services to companies globally, garnering close to 3.5 million business customers ranging from small companies through to large multinationals to date.

Globally speaking, AT&T counts the majority of companies on the Fortune 1000 list as customers, and has contracts to supply connectivity services to 1,700 large multinational companies in all.

Technology and service provision
Mobility services are based on GSM networks, though Slamecka said LTE is playing an increasing role in its global services. The operator has made “calling and texting available in over 225 countries and territories and discounted data coverage in over 200 countries,” he explained, adding that LTE data rates are offered in “over 105 countries and territories.”

The rollout of LTE saw AT&T boast that it was the first U.S. operator to offer 4G access to customers travelling overseas. The operator also provides “Wi-Fi access in more than a million locations,” Slamecka said.

In Europe and other global markets, AT&T utilises “roaming and agreements with other carriers” to provide its mobile and Wi-Fi services, Slamecka explained. “We currently have roaming agreements with more than 200 countries and territories and continue to build those international relationships from both a business and consumer perspective,” he added.

However, the operator is also pursuing acquisitions to enable it to hold greater control of its global mobile and Wi-Fi services. Slamecka pointed to the acquisition of Nextel Mexico in early 2015 as an example of this strategy.

Europe alone is a huge territory to cover in terms of network agreements and winning business from new corporate customers. When you include the MEA portion of Slamecka’s remit, the task becomes even greater. However, the executive explained that AT&T welcomes the challenge posed by entering new territories, preferring to view such moves “as a huge opportunity to continue to grow our global presence and provide innovative solutions,” to its business customers.

Consumer versus business customers
Given Slamecka’s reference to consumers when explaining AT&T’s desires to continue building its international presence, FW:E queried if the European consumer market is a target for the company, either to augment its existing focus on business customers or as a standalone new revenue stream.

“We don’t comment on speculation, but I can tell you that right now we’re focused on our strategy to provide integrated communications solutions to businesses,” Slamecka said. He explained that the reference to the consumer segment refers more to the deployment of “home entertainment and video solutions in the U.S. and Latin America.”

Slamecka said that in Europe and MEA, AT&T is concentrating its efforts on “providing greater agility and innovation for customers,” with ground breaking platforms and services covering “connectivity, network virtualisation services, Internet of Things (IoT), AT&T NetBond, and security and collaboration solutions.”

AT&T NetBond, for example, is one method that the operator offers to provide “a highly secure connection between a customer’s AT&T VPN and leading cloud providers in our ecosystem,” Slamecka said. The service offers access to an ecosystem of cloud service providers -- an approach that Slamecka explained enables AT&T’s business customers to “take advantage of multi-tenant cloud without using the Internet.”

One of the operator’s main selling points for businesses in Europe is the global reach of its network. The sheer number of countries and territories that AT&T can offer connections to “means that multinational companies can connect to our global network from around the world, whether it’s an HQ in Stockholm, or operations site in Latvia,” Slamecka said, adding. “When your business is everywhere, visibility means everything.”

AT&T is “helping companies of all sizes keep a close eye on their assets virtually anywhere in the world.”

Slamecka emphasised that the business market in EMEA remains a key focus for AT&T. He said business customers are “a sweet spot for us because we have the mobility and IP networks, and integrated solutions businesses need to compete.”

LTE-A and carrier aggregation
Those mobility networks include the latest development in LTE technology, LTE-Advanced (LTE-A). Slamecka told FW:E that AT&T commenced strategic deployments of LTE-A “in early 2014 and now cover the vast majority of people in our LTE coverage area” with the technology.

The operator is “also adding additional spectrum and equipment on an ongoing basis to further boost our network performance,” Slamecka explained, adding that AT&T is also “in the process of deploying three-way carrier aggregation on out network,” -- a move that sees the operator keep pace with the latest developments by European carriers, which are increasingly deploying carrier aggregation as a means of increasing the capacity of their networks amid surging data use by businesses and consumers alike.

While the challenges for any operator conducting its business across the diverse countries and territories of Europe are clear in terms of the infrastructure and services side, there are also personal challenges to be overcome.

AT&T company information reveals the operator has a team of over 275,000 employees to manage across 60 countries.

Slamecka shrugged off the question of the magnitude of the task of managing AT&T’s staff in Europe and the rest of the MEA territories. “It’s a great privilege to work with our talented and committed team across the diverse set of countries that make up EMEA,” he told FW:E.

However, Slamecka conceded that AT&T’s long experience as a global operator does make his task easier. “We know well the challenges posed by diverse cultures, geographies and time zones,” he said. Regardless of where staff come from or work, “we are united by our shared razor-sharp focus to serve our customers,” he noted.

Indeed, the cultural and geographical diversity of AT&T’s workforce is something of a benefit in terms of its EMEA -- and other global -- operations. Slamecka noted that AT&T’s global business customers “look to us to help them meet the challenges of today’s fast changing business environment,” which means that local knowledge can often be a key advantage for the company.

Slamecka summed up AT&T’s global business by explaining that the operator is “helping our customers transform their businesses by solving the challenges of the connected world, while capturing its opportunities.”