Why telecom service providers are exploring more AI applications

Savvy CIOs and CTOs at communication service providers are busy developing comprehensive strategies for the application of cognitive systems that enable new types of automation. The market leaders are currently engaged in numerous pilot and production projects that are a catalyst for further innovation.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning within the telecommunications domain is now an established practice and chatbots, customer services, and network management are areas where AI is part of everyday operations.

Cognitive systems market development

According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, the latest trend for AI development in telecom is all about cognitive platforms that focus on generic use rather than individual use cases.

"Despite the widespread use of AI and machine learning across many separated telecoms domains, AI platforms are now the top concern for leading mobile service providers globally, including AT&T, Deutsche Telecom, Telefonica, and Vodafone," said Dimitris Mavrakis, research director at ABI Research.

According to the ABI assessment, the promise of these platforms is encouraging, but there is still heavy development to be done and many mobile service providers are still not sure where to place their bets.

Initiatives such as the AT&T open-sourced 'Project Acumos' illustrate that open source hardware and software will likely be the most suitable development environment for these telecom AI platforms, potentially creating challenges for some IT vendors and hyperscale cloud service providers.

The application of these 'open innovation' AI platforms is a natural fit for telecom use cases, where mobile service providers can utilize the vast amounts of data they collect to improve their operations, enhance customer experience, and even provide value to their business partners.

For example, BT has saved tens of millions by combining human input, data collected from its network, and its own developed AI algorithm, to be able to predict the implication of any business decision on its network and financial position.

Outlook for telecom applications for AI

"Most mobile service providers are currently assessing AI platforms and whether they should invest in a centralised approach or continue with the use case specific AI applications they currently operate," said Mavrakis.

Given that AI will be a critical technology for the future of any business, the right decision will translate to a significant competitive advantage with financial benefits. ABI analysts believe that tier-1 mobile service providers should embrace open source and get involved in the development of AI solutions -- perhaps the most important forward-looking technology in the 5G era.

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