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Artificial Intelligence set to transform the telecoms industry

According to Huawei’s recently published Global Connectivity Index 2018, the evolution and widespread adoption of artificial intelligence will almost double the value of the digital economy to $23 trillion by 2025, breathing new life into traditional industries while creating new business opportunities.

This growth, it says, will be driven by IoT – bringing smarter, more connected devices and ‘things’, as well as the digital transformation of industries such as healthcare, manufacturing (Industry 4.0), automotive, logistics, the smart city, education, agriculture, and more.

This transformation brought about by the IoT will produce terabytes, petabytes and exabytes of big data, and the focus for telecoms operators should now shift to understanding how to drive value from this data and use that to create new revenue streams and business opportunities, and even new business models.

Throw 5G into the mix – faster speeds, more data – and it quickly becomes clear that the only way to process such huge volumes of data is by adopting AI.

Of course, the telecoms industry will use AI to optimise and manage network connectivity, including traffic classification, anomaly detection and network optimisation and utilisation, as well as self-learning, self-healing and autonomous decision making.

However, there is also a huge opportunity for operators to use this data to personalise customer offerings and improve customer service on the consumer side, but more importantly to transform their relationship with business.

Mustafa Aykut, CEO of Turkcell, recently gave an insight into how the industry is thinking during an interview with Telecoms.com: “5G will bring more speed and more data. Things and places will be getting smarter. As the speed will generate more data, people and things will interact more with each other and there will be vast opportunities for the operators to analyse data. AI based services and products will need major computing power to process big data volumes generated.”

He continued: “When it comes to analysing data, there will be vast opportunities for operators to analyse data and enhance the experience of consumers and businesses. Operators will be in the best position to add value and capture that value if they want to transform their business into an experience provider instead of simply being that service provider. They should be aware of their responsibility to accelerate transformation to the entire economy in this digital era.”

Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple have all entered the telecoms sector with disruptive business models, simultaneously threatening incumbent telecoms business models, while throwing light on a potential way forward for the industry. These brands are able to offer services for free by monetising the value in their customer data and/or selling advertising space.

Despite this model increasingly being questioned, there’s no sign of any near-term change in consumer behaviour. People, it seems, are happy to continue being the product, for the time being, at least.

Service providers may not be able to replicate this model exactly. However, they do have access to vast amounts of customer data, and the means to deliver services to their customers – whether consumer or business. Many have adopted solutions that help them to make sense of this data, but there’s a long way to go. They need to use this data intelligently, so that they can avoid any future backlash. However, the potential is clear.

In summary, the adoption of AI opens up a whole new business opportunity for services providers, and while – according to IDC statistics – 63% of service providers are investing in new AI technology, primarily driven by enterprise needs to drive viable efficiencies and consumer demand for contextualization, that still leaves many who are not.

It’s clear to many industry watchers that our industry is on the verge of a major transformation – and some might say disruption. That’s why we predict that in the next few years there will be a significant divergence in the industry between those service providers that are listening and transforming their own technologies and business models now in order to take advantage of future opportunities brought about by AI and 5G, and those who are not.

While there is likely to be a huge amount of hype surrounding this topic and we’re in the early stages of the adoption of AI and machine learning technology in the industry, it’s clear that it’s going to play a major role.

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