AT&T Issue Briefs

Our issue briefs provide additional details on topics identified as most important by our stakeholders. View all the issue briefs on the Reporting Library for a comprehensive overview or choose an issue in the drop-down menu.

 


Global Reporting Initiative Standard Disclosures
Technology innovation MA; Disaster response & relief MA



Global Reporting Initiative Standard Disclosures
Technology innovation MA; Disaster response & relief MA



ESG Material Issues
Disaster response & relief; Business continuity; Technological innovation

ESG Material Issues
Disaster response & relief; Business continuity; Technological innovation

 

 

Our Position

 

We're building a company that is strong for today and tomorrow. That means planning for and adapting to unexpected challenges and investing in innovative technologies to ensure AT&T succeeds in the competitive marketplace. 


Key Performance Indicators
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
Research & development investments
2017$1.5B
2018$1.2B
2019$1.3B
2020$1.2B
2021$1.5B

 

 

Our Action

Our President - Network Engineering and Operations provides oversight of the AT&T Business Continuity Management Program, which includes management disciplines, processes and techniques to support our employees and critical business operations in the event of a significant business disruption with a focus on maintaining delivery of customer services. We have a global team of certified and experienced business continuity experts that works to maintain the operation of business processes across the company using a risk-based approach to document business resumption plans. The plans include recovery strategies and procedures which are updated, exercised and certified on an annual basis, or more frequently as business conditions require. The Audit Committee of the AT&T Board of Directors receives regular reports on our business continuity efforts.

The AT&T Business Continuity Management Program is certified to the international business continuity standard, ISO 22301:2021. It is also aligned with the Disaster Recovery Institute International Professional Practices, Business Continuity Institute Good Practice Guidelines, Department of Homeland Security National Incident Management System and ISO 31000. Our alignment with these standards indicates our readiness to resume business operations and deliver customer service in the vital hours and days after a disaster. 

Our Chief Technology Officer oversees internal organizations responsible for disruptive and incremental innovation. This culture of innovation is grounded in the AT&T Code of Business Conduct, which also explains our responsibility to safeguard intellectual property. 

Network & Disaster Preparedness

Our President - Network Engineering and Operations has responsibility for the resilience of our network - including the management of climate-related impacts to our operations. This includes our commitments to renewable energy, network disaster response and business continuity planning.

Through regular analysis, upgrades and modifications, we enhance our network facilities to withstand natural disasters and other environmental factors. We deploy high-capacity battery backup or permanent generators at key network facilities which, in the event of power loss, allow service continuity until primary power is restored. Additionally, we are working to integrate our Climate Change Analysis Tool into the decision-making processes for infrastructure maintenance and construction. This tool, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, helps visualize climate impacts such as wind, drought, wildfire and flooding at the neighborhood level - up to 30 years into the future. With the tool, AT&T can better take climate change into account as we plan for network buildouts, maintenance and disaster preparedness. In 2021, we began combining different risk categories, such as wind and flooding, to generate a holistic climate change risk score for various parts of the business. This will enhance our analysis and help us prioritize action.

We also proactively monitor potential nature-related threats to our network, employees and communities through our Weather Operations Center. Through smart construction, planning and continued monitoring, AT&T is reducing the impact of the unpredictable on our operations.

We have invested more than $650 million in our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program, which exists to rapidly restore communications to areas affected by disasters. We are committed to on-the-ground testing and have conducted nearly 80 full-scale NDR recovery exercises in the field, which test the preparedness of our equipment and abilities. These drills help local and regional first responders understand the role and abilities of our NDR organization, and they maintain the readiness of our teams and equipment to respond at a moment's notice to restore a failed network office or network element in disaster situations.

In the event of a disaster or other emergency, we implement procedures to quickly restore network functionality, provide critical resources to impacted employees, field customer inquiries, and return or establish service in the communities where we operate.

Read more in our Network Quality & Reliability and Climate Change issue briefs. To learn more about our business continuity preparedness, visit AT&T Disaster Preparedness.

Supply Chain Resilience

AT&T works with more than 20,000 suppliers to ensure a geographically diverse and resilient supply chain that reduces our risk in unforeseen situations. In total, we spent more than $60 billion in 2021 on goods and services around the world through our Global Connections and Supply Chain organization.

In recent years, the world’s supply chain has faced unprecedented disruptions, highlighting the importance of improved supply chain resiliency. To meet such challenges, we’re enhancing our capabilities to proactively respond to and manage risks by improving our visibility into the impact on our suppliers. We’ve implemented an extensive data collection program enabling detection of where our suppliers – and their suppliers – concentrate manufacturing of key products and components. With this improved visibility, we will continually evaluate our supplier base to ensure we are achieving an industry-leading cost structure balanced with risk mitigation and resiliency. Read more in our Responsible Supply Chain issue brief.

We use Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to make our supply chain more efficient through data-driven insights derived from near-real-time monitoring of vehicles, drivers and trips. These solutions enhance our ability to track items, improve inventory management and streamline logistics operations.

Geopolitical events such as tariffs and trade restrictions enacted over the past few years also helped us ensure our supply chain was resilient and helped prepare us for the supply chain effects of COVID-19. For example, 2018 tariffs imposed on goods originating from China incentivized our suppliers to diversify their manufacturing footprint and reduce reliance on a single country.

Technology Innovation

Technology has the power and reach to be an important part of our efforts to address global business challenges and other societal challenges. Our network investments lay the foundation for new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, video analytics, virtual reality, augmented reality, edge computing, 5G, private cellular networks and the IoT. These investments are an important component of AT&T's business success, help attract employee talent and enhance our brand's reputation. 

Understanding that a company of our size can't innovate in a vacuum and remain competitive and agile in today's market, AT&T continues to scout the most revolutionary innovations throughout the global ecosystem. More than ever, innovation is everyone's mission across AT&T. In 2020, AT&T transformed our operating model to focus on execution, with a culture of accountability and decision-making closer to the customer. We opened our 5G Innovation Studio in Plano, Texas, with the goal of co-creating 5G-centric use cases and expediting the speed of adoption. We're also partnering with MxD, formerly known as the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, to launch a new demonstration center for emerging manufacturing communications technologies.

Examples of recent AT&T innovation areas include:

  • Deployment of AT&T 5G technology in both private and public/private modalities to help optimize operational manufacturing operations
  • Creation of a hybrid private/public wireless network solution called AT&T Staff Alert that helps protect remote workers in the hospitality industry
  • Collaboration with several utility companies across the U.S. to upgrade their monitoring and communications infrastructure, to provide deeper insight into energy operations
  • Inroads made with healthcare manufacturers to embed wireless communications in products that previously existed in a non-connected state, enabling new remote patient monitoring and diagnostic solutions in a pandemic-concerned marketplace

AT&T scientists and engineers conduct research in a variety of areas, including internet protocol networking, advanced network design and architecture, cybersecurity, network operations support systems, satellite technology, video platform development, and data analytics. Most development activities are performed to create new services and invent tools and systems to manage secure and reliable networks for our customers and AT&T.

Our total research and development investments were $1.5 billion in 2021.

Through organizations such as AT&T Labs, the AT&T 5G Innovation Studio and the AT&T Intellectual Property Group, we aim to tackle some of the most difficult challenges – and opportunities – related to evolving technologies.

Some of the world's best scientists and engineers work at AT&T Labs and focus their unique research capabilities and expertise on our network and anything that uses our network. The AT&T Labs research programs are at the forefront in creating advanced technologies that will drive future innovations in AI and automation, software-defined everything, network and customer experience, video and media analytics, and open-source platforms.

One area of focus at AT&T Labs is open-source software, which provides better control and allows us to manage and deploy network services more cost-effectively and efficiently. To that end, the organization is centered around a concept called "Network AI," which is the AT&T framework for open-source efforts that will drive the company's software-defined network. Our core network is 100% under software-defined control, as are many other areas of our network. This allows us to respond rapidly to any surges in network traffic, quickly enable capacity enhancements and promptly address any security concerns. AT&T is a founding member of the O-RAN Alliance, which works toward more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks. We've participated in several major open-source initiatives, all designed to support openness, visibility and security, maximize speed and accelerate innovation while controlling costs.

Our suppliers also add value to our company with innovation and fresh ideas, frequently sponsoring research and working with AT&T Labs alongside AT&T employees. Many of our supplier agreements promote innovation through models of shared value, such as joint intellectual property agreements or shared revenue.

Intellectual Property

AT&T’s patent portfolio is regularly regarded as one of the strongest in the world.

We create, own and distribute intellectual property, including material protected by copyrights, registered or unregistered trademarks, trade names, patents, trade secrets or other proprietary rights. To protect this intellectual property, we rely on a combination of laws, license agreements, robust registration and enforcement, and the responsible actions of our employees.

AT&T also offers licensing support to customers, including a patent licensing program and brand licensing of a wide array of trademarks. For more information about AT&T’s intellectual property portfolio and approach, see the AT&T Intellectual Property website and the AT&T Code of Business Conduct.