As telecom industry is gearing up for the interplay between AI, automation and analytics to drive businesses and new revenue streams, it becomes crucial to have a look at the digital technologies that are changing the landscape for telcos
As telecom industry is gearing up for the interplay between AI, automation and analytics to drive businesses and new revenue streams, it becomes crucial to have a look at the digital technologies that are changing the landscape for the telcos. In an interaction with ET’s Tina Gurnaney, Nishikant Nigam, EVP & Chief Delivery Officer at CSS CORP discusses AI’s role among other technologies in revolutionizing telecom networks.
What role are AI, analytics and automation playing in revolutionizing telecom networks?
The rapid transition to digital has changed the world including telcos. Traditional voice and text businesses are declining as the data business grows exponentially. The competition has broadened to include new kinds of companies. Also, the customers’ expectations are very different. Organizations need to renovate, innovate and evolve much faster than ever before to stay relevant.
AI, analytics and automation are powerful technologies in that quest, we call them “lever technologies”. These technologies, especially when used together, have a similar effect.
Just like the lever, these technologies are a means to an end, not an end by themselves. They not only enable more efficiency and optimization but also open up new possibilities in the telcos’ strategies that just weren’t there in the past. But really embracing these tools allows telcos to catapult into new frontiers – implementing high-density urban 5G deployments, predicting system failures and prompting preventive action, and humanizing customer service chatbots.
Can AI help telcos in creating new revenue streams?
Absolutely. This industry, like many others, is being redefined. The traditional services and competitors are being challenged by companies from other industries who are “blurring the lines” on what it means to be a telco. Similarly, telcos are able to cross over into adjacent or tangentially related industries. The companies who can do that successfully are ones that provide a superior customer experience. It gives companies the brand permissions they need to branch out into new areas and build new revenue models.
What are the trends we’re seeing in the telecom space with regards to AI?
We are really in the golden age of the consumer, and telecom companies are using more and more AI to give customers more choices and personalized services than ever before. This continued evolution in consumer demand, coupled with proliferated smartphone usage, will continue to drive fundamental changes in the way consumers react to services and have taken the consumer-brand collaboration to the whole new level. Tools like conversational interfaces are on the rise. The blend of voice recognition, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence can understand not only the user’s words but their intent and context which help telecos to establish customer trust. Telecom companies are also using AI to drive efficiencies and better manage increasingly complex operations, systems, and networks.
What can be telcos’ digital strategy going forward?
Legacy digital strategies focused more on running digital as an isolated area of the business, with a dedicated “digital team”. Newer strategies recognize that the majority of customers’ interactions will occur through digital channels, so they can be used as a way to create value throughout the customer’s journey. Hence digital plays on the front office side as a means to enhance revenue, provide better customer experience and value for customers, which is critical given customer’s high expectations and lower switching costs.
Some of the key strategies that telecom organizations can use to embrace the ever-changing digital technologies include predictive analytics for customer behavior and journey mapping, self-help and DIY, innovative pricing models, robotic process automation (RPA), omni-channel support and mobile based customer support. These strategies can help to improve customers’ experience and solve problems of the telecom industry through multimedia and online support; helping businesses to build customer relationships, customer loyalty and increase revenues.
How can AI help in automating the networks?
With the growing use of cloud and the rise of the Internet of Things, not to mention consumer data, the networks need to handle higher volumes of data than ever before, making automation an imperative for better network planning and connectivity. AI helps networks to identify the best course of actions, to build self- healing capabilities, and to emulate human-like behavior of adapting.
How can AI help with smooth integration of technologies including virtualization, SDN-NFV, orchestration?
Software-defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) are major advances in the industry, creating more agile and flexible communications infrastructure – but to be useful we must be able to manage them efficiently. They must be highly reliable and scalable, easily set up, with efficient ways to monitoring, maintain, and repair them. AI is uniquely suited to analyzing large volumes of information, extracting information and identifying insights – even more than traditional analytics – because it can learn from itself. So with a technology that’s still emerging, the AI-based systems that manage them can learn along with them. We don’t have to constantly reprogram or recalibrate. These systems can take on provisioning of SDN for network managers, for instance, or virtualization of NFV to realize an on-demand dynamic network configuration.
Are there any telcos in India working on AI related solutions?
Yes, absolutely. Most of the major telcos have adopted the AI wave and are working on related solutions. For example, Vodafone launched its chatbot in 2017, named TOBi. It’s a virtual service agent powered by AI through IBM Watson and integrated with Facebook Messenger. It helps customers seeking answers to basic questions over web chat. Many others are working on similar projects or not far behind.
Are there any projections you can share for the same?
You can expect to read about more AI-based projects in the next 12-18 months as AI becomes truly an integral part of telecommunications industry.
One of the successful use cases could be managing customer support operations and IT operations in the telecom industry where AI enables convergence of human and machine intelligence. This results in improved business agility, operational excellence, and resilience, and brings about better customer experience. The ability to respond instantaneously and accurately to customers’ questions and helping them in decision making processes have made AI an integral part of telecom customer experience ecosystem.
What role are analytics, intelligent automation playing in revolutionizing telecom networks?
These technologies have created a lot of changes to telecom operators. The advent of 5G is likely to lead to high-density urban deployments, which would create multitudes of patterns that’d be practically impossible for humans to manage but would be easily handled by self-learning AI. AI is also likely to impact the telecom industry in areas like traffic classification, anomaly detection, network optimization and orchestration. The ways to use AI in networks are still emerging but these are some that have a lot of focus now.
What revenue streams can telcos explore while leveraging emerging technologies?
Cross-platform consumption of media and content is one area that is opening up further growth opportunities for telcos with AI-led solutions. Once companies have competencies with implementing and using AI, the revenue possibilities are very broad. Specific opportunities depend on each company’s strengths and opportunities. The other option is for the telcos to also co-innovate with niche service providers that bring these emerging technologies across a variety of use cases to the table.