AT&T Pours $1B Into Global Network Buildout

AT&T announced Monday that it will invest US$1 billion in its global network in 2009 to better serve businesses in the U.S. and overseas.

The communications giant has invested more than $3 billion in its network since 2006.

The latest commitment is meant to add more data capacity to parts of the world where the fast growth of data usage has constrained existing networks.

“With today’s announcement, AT&T is making good on its commitment to provide companies with the network-driven capabilities and applications they need to successfully compete in a difficult economic environment,” said Ron Spears, president and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions.

AT&T stock was down 2.37 percent to $23.01 in mid-day trading Monday.

Investing for the Future

AT&T’s announcement comes just a few weeks after semiconductor giant Intel said it would invest $7 billion in its manufacturing facilities even as the year-long U.S. recession appears to be worsening.

“The reality is that, like Intel demonstrated earlier this month, the companies that can afford it are using this down market to position themselves for when the recovery occurs,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

In AT&T’s case, voice traffic is falling off, so the nation’s No. 2 telecommunications company needs to position itself for emerging opportunities in data services, he told the E-Commerce Times.

“They’re investing in their own future,” Enderle said. “They’re showing they have a lot of confidence that they’re going to be around. You like to see that kind of confidence in a market like this.”

Increasing Capacity in Asia

The worldwide expansion of AT&T’s network will focus particularly on Asian markets such as China, India, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. In North America, Mexico and Puerto Rico will also see increased network capacity.

Data traffic is expected to spike in places like Asia and India, because many corporations today are outsourcing various resources to those markets, Enderle said.

“The growth rate in data usage in Asia and India has put a huge amount of stress on the networks there,” he said.

In much the same vein, data traffic is expected to increase dramatically in Puerto Rico and Mexico due to the relatively low cost of labor in those countries, which, like India, makes them attractive places for outsourcing, Enderle said.

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Science, Art Inspire Women in Tech Entrepreneurship

An unusual STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) concept combined with some fashion know-how sewn in is creating a unique brand of tech-based fashion entrepreneurship.

Svaha USA is a STEAM-themed clothing and accessories brand whose online store is changing the face of women’s and children’s apparel. Svaha celebrates women in all fields of endeavor and confronts gender stereotypes with bright, fun clothes to allow kids’ imaginations to soar.

Founder Jaya Iyer’s two-year-old daughter in 2015 desperately longed for some planet-themed clothing to fuel her dreams of flying to space as an astronaut. But nothing space-related in clothing departments existed.

Iyer used her knowledge of fashion merchandising to create a specialized clothing brand designed for her STEAM-themed assortment that defied gender stereotypes. Those efforts resulted in her growing one of the most successful STEAM fashion brands for kids and adults in the world.

“I wanted to encourage my daughter’s passion and other girls with similar interests in the best way I knew how — with clothes! I realized there was a missed market for kids who like things that are not gender traditional,” Iyer told TechNewsWorld.

The Difference an ‘A’ Makes

Jaya Iyer, founder of Svaha USA, and daughter Svaha
Jaya Iyer, founder of Svaha USA, and daughter Svaha, the company’s namesake. Jaya moved to the U.S. from India with nothing but a backpack and ambition. She earned a doctoral degree in Fashion Merchandising from Iowa State University, taught fashion buying, and wrote a textbook on fashion in emerging markets that is now used in universities.

In doing so, Iyer stitched together a connection that fosters academic STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) studies to a previously ignored recognition of the role art and humanities play.

“I believe that there is no STEM without the A [art]. Art is a part of science, technology, engineering, and even math.”

One of her biggest hurdles was being able to make the clothing designs technically accurate. But working with women who are in the field has helped her overcome this hurdle.

“We are now working on getting our products in front of more women so they can also wear these dresses and show off their love for tech-themed clothing,” Iyer said.

From Dreams to Reality

Today, only about 25% of computer scientists and 15% of engineers are women, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Iyer hopes to change that situation with her fashion lineup. Very responsive to customer suggestions, she developed some 95% of the designs from customers’ inputs.

“Our customers absolutely love our products! Teachers love to wear our clothing when they are teaching the concept represented in the design of our clothing. Professionals love to wear them to work and to various conferences. We have a very loyal customer base who come back to buy our products on a regular basis,” offered Iyer.

STEAM influencer Dr. Arlyne Simon is a biomedical engineer who invented a blood test that detects when cancer patients reject a bone marrow transplant. She is also the founder of Abby Invents, a multicultural children’s products company that helps to inspire young inventors.

Dr. Arlyne Simon, Medical Marvels Hedy Dress
Dr. Arlyne Simon is a biomedical engineer, patented inventor, and author. Simon created the Medical Marvels Hedy Dress design encompassing African print inspiration and biomedical engineering symbols.

All too familiar with being the “only woman” or “only Black” engineer in a room, Simon sees Svaha USA as a game-changer. Its creative approach to help close the gender gap in STEM makes science fun and fashionable, and empowers girls and women to pursue STEM careers.

“If she wears it, then she can be it. Give a girl a space dress, and she pictures herself as an astronaut. Give her a biomedical engineering dress, and she visualizes herself creating life-saving healthcare technologies,” Simon told TechNewsWorld.

This level of identity exposure is life-changing. Ask a girl to draw a scientist, and more than likely, she will draw an old guy in a lab coat, she observed.

“When girls are not exposed to women scientists, they are unable to imagine themselves in these roles. But perhaps all it takes for a girl to fall in love with space is for a teacher to talk about the solar system while twirling in Svaha’s Rings of Saturn skirt,” she added.

This type of grass-roots support for advancing women in technology is essential. Science T-shirts and dresses are conversation starters and spark dialogues between girls and their moms/educators.

“Tell me about your dress” may lead to a conversation about how mathematical models in epidemiology predict the spread of Covid-19. Since each Svaha dress is named after a famous female scientist, girls are introduced to notable women like Hedy Lamarr and Marie Curie,” said Simon.

Ladies in Space Pursuit

Svaha launched collections in collaboration with women who are making a difference in the STEAM fields today. These contributors include former NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg.

Astronaut Karen Nyberg
Astronaut Karen Nyberg aboard the International Space Station holds the hand-made dinosaur for her son that inspired a “space fashion” collection.

In her free time on the International Space Station, Nyberg created hand-made items from cast-off supplies and videographed them floating with no gravity inside the station as gifts to her son, Jack.

Her first doodad was a cloth dinosaur crafted with the fabric lining from the Russian food containers. She stuffed it with cut strips of cloth from one of her used T-shirts hand-stitched with ivory thread on board.

Iyer and Nyberg teamed up to develop a line of dinosaur-themed clothing. For that, Nyberg tapped into Jack’s strong knowledge of dinosaurs.

Her grade-school-aged son, still a dinosaur lover with aspirations to be a paleontologist, offered his Mom “dino advice” on her design for Svaha USA. He picked out his four favorite dinosaurs to include in the design and provided her with an accurate depiction for each in her Dinos in Space collection.

Birthing the Concept

Jaya Iyer’s young daughter was already focused on becoming an astronaut when Jaya started her clothing company seven years ago. The company, named after Iyer’s daughter, developed its first line of products partially fund by launching a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $30,000.

Iyer later expanded the merchandise line following customers’ suggestions for women’s apparel dubbed Smart Dresses for Smart Women. She again funded that clothing style with a second Kickstarter campaign which raised over $57,000.

Some of Iyer’s product inspiration came from Nyberg’s passion for creating memorabilia for son while she orbited the earth.

Rachel Ignotofsky
New York Times best selling author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky is another Svaha USA contributor who connected her tech expertise with a new computer science clothing collection based on her own science-based artwork and her book “The History of the Computer.”

“We have been able to make the designs accurate by working with women who work in the STEM fields. But, reaching more people is still a work in progress. We have grown a lot … but we still have a long way to go,” she noted.

The connection between STEM and STEAM is a key driving factor for Iyer and her followers. Including art and humanities in her clothing line provided something for all the professionals who are not a part of STEM.

“We make literature, music, and library-themed products that appeal to a whole different group of customers,” Iyer noted.

The fact that art is an integral part of STEM is being accepted by more and more people now, according to Iyer. If people can be educated about the importance of various fields of Art in STEM education and professions, the adoption will become a lot easier.

“We try to do it through our clothing and social media. But, more people need to understand the importance of art in our lives,” she said.

Earthly Wear

Kallie Moore in Velociraptor Skirt
Kallie Moore, manager of the paleontology collection at the University of Montana, collaborated with Svaha USA to design the Velociraptor A-Line Skirt.

Iyer’s clothing collections allow scientists to harness their inner Ms. Frizzle. They also feel like a form of “broader impacts,” noted fossil librarian, science communicator and manager of the paleontology collection at the University of Montana, Kallie Moore. The company recently launched her Velociraptor design collection.

“By wearing your science, you invite questions and comments. I have all sorts of interactions wearing Svaha USA pieces. It is another outlet for me to spread my love of paleontology,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Kids having heroes is great. But many times, it can be hard to connect with them. Having someone in your community, more on your level, being successful at supporting women in STEM is more tangible, offered Moore.

“Jaya collaborates with real scientists, and it is fun to see what they would make for themselves. I hope it inspires others to create STEM-focused clothes for people who identify as female,” she said.

Coming from paleontology, where art is so interconnected to science, art is a huge benefit. In paleontology, art helps us imagine what ancient creatures and ecosystems would have been like, continued Moore. This allows us to get closer to our past. “Obviously, being really, really good looking while totally nerding out is also a plus,” she said.

STEAM Wear at a Glance

Svaha USA’s high-quality 100% organic, super-soft dresses all have a hint of geek and feature pockets, according to Iyer.

Each style of dress is named after famous female scientists such as Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace, Ruby Payne-Scott and Dorothy Hodgkin.

Some of Svaha’s unique designs for dresses, skirts, blouses, T-shirts, cardigans, hoodies, sleepwear, and accessories are visually intriguing.

The collections feature everything from science heroes on raglan tops to stylish, high-quality dresses featuring STEAM-themed concepts.

Other thoughtful selections include the line of Amazing Women Pioneers Canvas Bags, the PI Day Collection, a Moon Phases Glow-In-The-Dark Ombré Ada Dress, and a colorful Chemistry Lab Rosalind Dress.

Also offered are fashionable creative dresses featuring Augmented Reality, DNA Iconic Double Helix, Trigonometry, and even literary treasures such as Jane Austen.

Visit Svaha USA to browse all the collections of geeky, STEAM-themed, apparel and accessories.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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B2B Funding Firms Banking on Embedded Finance

accounting and finance

Embedded finance is on the rise in both the business and consumer payments markets. Analysts project its revenue will reach $1.91 trillion as adoption expands by 2028.

This steady acceptance is opening fintech operations to a wide range of marketplace opportunities. At the same time, it is forcing banks to morph their traditional catbird seat domain in doling out loans and bill paying services to partnerships with a variety of e-commerce platforms. This disruptive transition spans industries catering to both business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions.

By integrating a financial task or function into a business’s infrastructure, embedded finance streamlines access to financial services such as lending, insurance, or payment processing. It does this without redirecting the customer to third-party destinations.

The embedded finance concept took root years ago with money handling operations such as PayPal and Stripe. Users could conveniently pay bills and deliver money to individuals and companies without individually handling such matters through their banks or postal services.

Banking as a Service

Finance platforms called banking as a service, or BaaS, are becoming an integral part of online transactions for both individual consumers and businesses. A dual industry is developing around the two processes.

These BaaS platforms enable digital banks — and even non-banks — to build various financial services into their online transactions, exclusive of product purchases. They operate with back-end banking functionality; whereas the broader category of embedded finance is more of a front-end access to financial services.

Together, the two are tied to the digital marketplace and the efforts to simplify and streamline financial services for consumers and businesses alike. Though embedded finance and banking as a service appear similar, they differ slightly in that BaaS is needed to deliver embedded finance.

Invoice Factoring

One of the new trends in shaping B2B payment strategies, especially for non-financial companies, is the shift toward invoice funding, or factoring.

This solution is not a loan but a financing strategy where a company sells its invoices at a discount to a factoring company in exchange for a lump sum of cash. The factoring company then owns the invoices and gets paid when it collects from the invoiced customers, typically from 30 to 90 days.

FundThrough is an AI-powered invoice factoring platform with a big presence in the process of embedded finance in B2B payments. The company provides funding for a business based on the size of its outstanding invoices.

Online B2B transactions have three components — suppliers, buyers, and the platforms they use. Each component has its own set of needs that must be met to ensure a smooth payment process for all involved, according to Amanda Parker, chief growth officer at FundThrough.

An essential requirement for buyers is contentment with sellers’ payment methods and how their suppliers provide those services. Where suppliers are concerned, customer remittance intervals and delivery processes tend to vary by industry — and selling to B2B enterprises that have unreasonably long or inconsistent payment cycles can negatively impact the cash flow of suppliers, Parker noted.

Embedded finance, the larger umbrella category, encompasses all the different components of finance in the traditional sense. Embedded finance strategies can be built into whatever workflow that makes sense, explained Parker.

“It can be used right inside the workflow connected to a purchase of an item, a transaction, creation of an invoice, for example,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “It also includes embedded banking, embedded payments, lending insurance, you name it.”

Embedded Finance Unwrapped

The E-Commerce Times further discussed the inner workings of embedded finance with Amanda Parker. Following is that part of our conversation.

What more is involved in the process of embedded finance?

Amanda Parker: It varies and includes a connection to the customer, so you have some kind of connection to the data source.

Amanda Parker, chief growth officer at FundThrough
Amanda Parker, Chief Growth Officer

Let’s take an example from one of our partnerships. We are connecting to the user’s company inside QuickBooks for getting information on what their company is, what it does, as well as a level of identity verification.

We are doing something called KYC, which is “Know Your Customer,” so we are asking the user a series of questions or asking for a series of documents to confirm their identity.

Then we confirm that the transaction they are requesting is legitimate, the relationship that they have with the business on the other side is legitimate, and that their bank account details are legitimate.

So those are kind of the components. It is verification, confirmation, and then sending the funds required through various banks.

How does this process work for other use cases?

Parker: Our bread and butter is lending or invoice finance. In general, embedded finance has tons of other use cases. You have B2C, tax or business-to-consumer contacts, and you have payments insurance. This is the exact same but in a B2B context.

So, for us, the use case might involve suppliers that want to get paid immediately. Now they can do that beside any workflow; whether a transaction, invoice, or purchase is happening.

How does this process benefit consumers or is it more a benefit for businesses?

Parker: We focus on businesses, but for consumers and everybody it is the seamless integration they gain so they do not have to leave their workflow. It is far more convenient and automated.

You are not using six different systems to try to get something done. You can now do everything inside one system. So, if you think about the way that finances have leveraged or changed over time, consumers can essentially buy anything online.

But B2B is a very fragmented system. So now, embedded finance is taking over into B2B to apply that same kind of frictionless experience that consumers have online to a B2B context.

What factors are driving the transition to embedded finance?

Parker: Frictionless experiences at the consumer level have always led the way. Now that is coming through to businesses.

Another key thing is as millennials take over more of the workforce, they typically get frustrated with systems and workflows.

Integrated payments and lending are really unlocking a lot of new business models for software companies. This vastly improves the experience to make it a more consumer-like experience but in a business-to-business context.

How is the adoption of embedded finance progressing?

Parker: We see a growing number of estimates for the global embedded finance opportunity. [Reportedly] embedded finance will reach a $7 trillion value globally in the next 10 years.

PayPal and Stripe were leaders, particularly on the consumer side and e-commerce. Now we are getting on the cusp of explosion on the B2B side of things, which is very exciting. There is over $100 trillion of GMP (guaranteed maximum price) inside B2B. That is just kind of open for the taking.

I think you are going to see a lot more of that as players over the coming years come out and start to want to assist in that movement of those funds.

What is needed to encourage further adoption?

Parker: I would say one of the key things is bank adoption. More banks need to embrace open banking and banking as a service.

Application programming interface (API) architecture is ever evolving and getting better. A number of fintech players have come out to give the banks a run for their money. So, I think we will start to see a ton of innovation in that space in the coming years.

Why are some banks hesitant to come on board?

Parker: Banks really want to hold back that customer and hold that experience. They do not want their customers moving over to another experience. They want to try to service it all themselves.

Banks also have a big concern about security. But we invest in that now to ensure we give customers the best experience. Consumers are connecting their bank accounts to tons of different services. It’s in [everyone’s] best interest to ensure a secure and frictionless experience. That is one of the big areas where we hope to see continuing progress in the coming years.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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