The idea was to transmit speech over electrical wires. On March 7, 1876, 147 years ago today, Alexander Graham Bell was granted patent #174765, and the telephone was born. His invention was a significant improvement over the telegraph and the culmination of his life’s work as a scientist and as a teacher of the deaf.  

It was also the beginning of AT&T. For 147 years, inventors, visionaries and service-minded employees have walked our halls, each playing a role in technology’s constant evolution and changing the world. And that spirit of purposeful creation still drives us today.

Since the birth of the telephone, AT&T Labs scientists have gone on to invent the transistor; launch long-distance calls, satellite communications and the cellular phone system; pave the way for radio, TV and sound motion pictures; design UNIX, the operating system that led to the Internet and today’s computers and smartphones; introduce our nation’s 9-1-1 system and so much more. If you’re interested in taking a virtual tour of AT&T’s Museum, located in our Middletown, New Jersey Labs, please watch this video.

It is said that in technology, everything is always 5-10 years ahead. At AT&T Labs, we are time travelers, laser-focused on “turning someday into everyday.” Underpinning this drive is a strong culture of innovation, creativity and collaboration within AT&T. We want to be the best broadband provider in America, but at the core is our aspiration to connect people to greater possibility. I want to share a few little-known ways our Labs team have championed this culture of invention and inspiration.

We have built a network for you
From social networking and messaging apps, video streaming and gaming to autonomous cars and connected products that power businesses and cities, our world today requires more and more out of our network. One that is:

Did you know that by using machine learning algorithms, we have enabled cell sites to “sleep” just like how your computer reserves power by entering rest mode when not in use? Last year, AT&T saved the equivalent annual power use of 13,500 average homes by implementing this cell site sleep technology.

  • We have innovated repeatedly to stay ahead of security threats, just as we have done throughout history – from developing the first completely secure telephone technology during World War II to being one of the originators of the packet-filtering firewall in 1988. Today, AT&T holds more than 1,000 security-related patents in areas including identity management and cloud automation.  
  • Customer-centric: This means designing our network with the customer experience as top of mind. With AT&T 5G, we’ve unlocked experiences once only seen in science fiction movies. Take holographic communication as an example. Since the success of our NFL augmented reality experience and NBA holographic interviews during the 2020 playoffs with HoloVision, we’ve explored new immersive experiences for fans powered by AT&T 5G, most recently at the 72nd NBA All Star weekend
  • How does this all come together? We opened our 5G Innovation Studio in 2021 to explore and accelerate new 5G use cases. We’ve made creating efficient mobile applications easier for developers with our free and open-sourced AT&T Video Optimizer, which helps improve the user experience while reducing network congestion.

We have always been there
Did you know that we have been providing telecommunications solutions to first responders since the late 1870s? From introducing the first police call box in Chicago in 1880 and designing a special telephone system for the New York City Police Department in 1886 to the launch of 9-1-1 in 1968, we believe in innovation that creates a positive impact in our communities. 

We have continued to strengthen our commitment to public safety by working with the federal government to deliver FirstNet® – the only nationwide wireless network built with and for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. This gives law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services (EMS) and more an entire ecosystem of mission-centric apps and solutions, as well as dedicated connectivity when they need it. Most recently, we’ve unveiled the ability to identify a first responder’s location in a building with Z-Axis for FirstNet®. We’re also bringing 5G connectivity to major events or disaster areas using drones – also known as Flying COWs (Cell on Wings). In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian last fall, we deployed our amphibious vehicle to quickly restore service.

Ask any of our employees and network engineers why they work at AT&T, and many of them will say it’s because here, they can make a real difference in the world. 

Did you know that AT&T has been selected to participate in more Department of Defense 5G experiments than any other telecommunications carrier? 

We are part of the larger innovation ecosystem  
Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As we work to create unique personal, digital and mobile experiences that enrich and simplify people’s lives, it is important that we work with innovators inside and outside AT&T. Two quick examples:

  • AT&T is helping build a 5G-enabled digital battle network for the Department of Defense. The goal is to deliver a cost-effective, scalable, open architecture solution that will help the DoD connect distributed sensors, shooters and data from all domains, terrains and forces. At Tyndall Air Force base, the Air Force is using robotic dogs to provide perimeter patrol and support base security.
  • We have deployed 5G at several universities across the country to help fuel their research and transform their labs, curriculum and the campus experience. We are studying areas such as reducing power consumption in manufacturing, unlocking smart farming capabilities using 5G, using augmented and virtual reality in military training and much more.

Innovation isn’t just a marathon. It’s a never-ending journey of discovery, testing and implementation to give our customers the best – a purposeful journey that we’ve proudly undertaken for 147 years and counting.

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Igal Elbaz
Igal Elbaz Senior Vice President & Network CTO

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