Thanks to text-generating tools like ChatGPT, the last six months have seen an explosion in conversations about AI.
AI was also one of the hot topics at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, featuring as a topic in many major keynotes. While many companies shied away from specifics, Qualcomm’s R&D announcements at the show included native support for AI applications on smartphones (rather than having to run them from the cloud).
Also included in their announcements, an intention to focus on AI as a component of 5G Advanced, saying AI “will play an essential role in the design and operations of 5G Advanced and beyond”. Unsurprising given that network operations is one of the most compelling use-cases for AI in telecom, as the growth of network complexity is rapidly outpacing the ability of humans to keep up with the operational decision-making required to optimize network resources.
So what are the top trends to be aware of for AI in telecom in 2023?
AI is already here, and it’s delivering results.
AI isn’t some hypothetical future state of telecom – it’s already here are delivering benefits for the earliest adopters.
In a recent survey of telecom industry professionals who are responsible for implementing AI technologies, one-third (34%) respondents said their company had been using AI for more than six months. Nearly another third (31%) said they were still in the research or assessment phase. Only 5% of respondents said that their company was not using or planning to use AI.
Telecom companies that have trialed or implemented AI have seen real impacts on both profits and cost reduction; 73% of respondents said their companies had seen increased annual revenue, and 80% said they had seen reduced costs.
The biggest areas of focus for the next year were network operations and customer experience optimization. Additionally, there are also compelling use cases for telecom operators looking to optimize operations, improve front-line customer service, and improve decision-making through predictive analytics.
AI will be used to fight growing rates of scams and cyber-attacks.
Globally, the incidence of cyber-attacks continues to grow at a wild rate. A report by cybersecurity provider Radware showed that the second half of 2022 saw a 203% increase in volumetric DDOS attacks over the first half of 2022. The past few years has also shown massive grown in spam and scam SMS messages and robocalls, which has the FCC considering rules requiring service providers to block traffic that is most likely to be fraudulent.
The sheer volume of malicious and fraudulent activity has many companies investigating AI for implementation of more advanced cybersecurity solutions that can use AI to block malicious network activity. AI also can provide early detection of threats, allowing human cybersecurity teams to respond quickly to threats as they emerge.
Regulation of AI will become more common as regulators catch up with real-world impacts.
As with any new technology, there can be serious problems when AI is implemented without due consideration for ethics and potential real-world impacts. Some of the most widespread concerns to be aware of regarding increased use of AI technologies are concerns about privacy, ethics, and increased algorithmic bias.
Out of all of these, algorithmic bias is perhaps the most concerning as it is already causing real world harms. Commercial facial recognition systems have been shown to discriminate based on race, resume screening systems discriminate on gender, and AI-driven clinical health tools display both socioeconomic and racial bias.
Given these impacts, it’s unsurprising that the number of laws being passed about AI are on the rise. A survey of legislative records in 25 companies showed that the number of bills containing “artificial intelligence” passed into law went from just 1 in 2016 to 18 in 2021. In addition to legislation, there are also 173 AI ethics frameworks and guidelines in place around the world.
The above three trends offer just a sliver of what’s to come in this space. As both the telecom and retail industries grapple with AI and its possibilities, many more game-changing applications will emerge.