MEF Launches New Report – Building AI into the Telco of the Future

The Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) has published a new report, “Building AI into the Telco of the future”. 

Authored by telecoms industry analyst Chris Lewis and sponsored by GMS, the AI-driven communications solutions partner, the report aims to capture the status of AI in the telecoms industry and discuss the dynamics surrounding its deployment. 

AI will impact every aspect of the industry and will have a seismic influence on the way the industry builds networks, delivers services and serves customers in the coming years. But one thing is clear, AI may be able to do a lot of heavy lifting in the future, but the human touch will always be needed.

This report is a synthesis of many of the diverse views gathered during discussions with telco CTOs, CIOs, Chief AI Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Academic and the people driving AI from the supply side, both from traditional suppliers to the telecoms industry and also from the swathe of new, innovative companies bringing AI expertise to life. The report shows that focusing inwardly on the workings of the network is not enough. Focusing on what customers are trying to do with connectivity and how AI can enhance that should be the starting point.

AI has captured people’s imagination. But before we can understand its impact, we must first recognise the dynamics of the telecoms industry. Revenues are relatively flat, if not shrinking. Slow adoption of virtualisation, cloud and reliance on legacy technology to support business operations, combined with investments in new generations of fixed and mobile technologies, all leave the telecoms industry struggling. 

At a minimum, AI is seen as a means of reducing the cost of operations, but the hope is that it will also lead to fresh revenue and a more profitable future. Connectivity and related services, such as messaging, will increasingly be embedded into other business and consumer offerings, requiring much closer cooperation and integration with third parties and channels alike. The blurring of boundaries between the IT, cloud, social media and telecom worlds will also present definitional challenges and new competitors. 

AI providers, in conjunction with the supplier ecosystem and their own initiatives, can do much of the heavy lifting, often on a level unachievable by the human workforce. But fine-tuning a solution based on this broader interpretation of data and activities will require human touch. More importantly, checks and balances provided by people will be necessary in all AI implementations to avoid ‘hallucination’ and ensure that the end product is fit for purpose. The superficial relevance and suitability of AI generated output should always be questioned, with the last word left to the human element. But, with AI tools in the hands of employees throughout the telco, massive improvements in productivity and quality of product, let alone customer experience, will be dramatically improved.

Just like other businesses and industries, telecom companies must build their own models and maintain control of data to serve customers and maintain, if not improve, their position in the market.

In short, this is a generational game changer in terms of how technology can help us build a ‘better’ society and economy. But, as with all major game-changers, the regulatory and supervisory environment must be clearly set out to ensure that the negative potential of these developments doesn’t end up being the headlines of tomorrow. 

At a minimum, AI will drive the operational efficiency of the world’s telcos but, working closely with their technology providers, telcos will benefit from more accelerated product and service availability, truly omnichannel access to services and greater confidence in the quality of the connectivity, fixed and mobile, that will support a radical change in the way we live and work.