How Mobile Phone Networks Are Embracing AI

image source, Getty Images

image caption, Apple is about to introduce its new AI-powered operating system.

  • the author, Matthew Wall
  • the role, Technology Reporter
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Our mobile phones are getting a lot smarter, but what about the telecom networks they run on?

Called Apple Intelligence, and built into the phones' Siri chatbot, it aims to make them easier and faster to use. And turn Siri into an even more personal assistant.

It follows Samsung's Galaxy AI for its Pixel handsets, and Google's Gemini AI.

The increased use of AI means phones will be doing a lot more computing, and that means they'll generate and consume a lot more data. This will put further pressure on mobile phone networks, such as the UK's O2, EE, Vodafone and Three.

To help them compete, telecoms companies like it are also increasingly introducing AI, says Ian Fogg, director of network innovation at research consultancy CCS Insight.

“Network operators are using AI to dynamically manage radio frequencies, to provide the best level of service. And to manage cell towers, for example, so they have less demand. consumes less energy over time.”

The ever-increasing use of AI for maintenance of mobile phone networks is now much more global. In South Korea, Korea Telecom is now able to localize and fix faults within a minute, thanks to its AI-powered network, says Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer at GSMA, the body representing global mobile operators. Thanks to supervision.

Meanwhile, AT&T in the US is using predictive, AI algorithms built on trillions of previous network alerts to warn it when things are going wrong.

image caption, Network providers are increasingly using AI to monitor their systems, says Ian Fogg.

Other operators, such as Vodafone, are using AI digital twins – virtual digital replicas of real-world equipment, such as masts and antennas – to continuously monitor how their networks are performing.

And AI is also being used to manage how large-scale data centers use energy to keep their servers cool and optimize storage capacity.

The explosion in data generated by the growing use of AI is another reason why telecom companies around the world continue to invest in so-called 5G standalone mobile networks. These use new, dedicated 5G infrastructure rather than relying partly on upgrading older, less efficient 4G systems.

5G standalone offers much higher speed and capacity. But some experts believe that even this advanced technology will not be enough to cope with the demands of the AI ​​age.

For example, at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ​​some experts argued that AI won't reach its full potential until 2028, when 6G rolls out.

While mobile users only look to the network when things go wrong, they are much more aware when customer service levels are poor, with all the reputational damage it can cause brands. Is.

So the industry is also hoping that AI can radically improve the way they interact with and serve customers.

For example, the Global Telco AI Alliance – a joint venture consisting of Deutsche Telekom, E&S, Singtel, SoftBank and SK Telecom with 1.3 billion users in 50 countries – aims to create an AI chatbot. To develop one that is specifically tailored to the telecom sector, and the type of questions that customers typically ask.

Alliance's founders hope that this specially trained chatbot will be able to handle most basic questions from customers, freeing up call center staff to focus on more complex issues. will go

image source, Getty Images

image caption, AI is being used to automatically control the power consumption of cell towers.

Meanwhile, Vodafone has teamed up with Microsoft's Azure OpenAI service to improve its customer service, led by its digital assistant Toby, which reaches 40 million a month in 13 countries and 15 languages. Interacts with more users than

The more Toby can answer customer questions without the need for human intervention, the fewer complaints there are likely to be, which is good for profits and corporate reputation.

“We see AI primarily as a 'virtual assistant' for humans,” says Scott Petty, Vodafone's chief technology officer. “We're already seeing AI free up Vodafone employees' time from tedious, repetitive manual work, allowing them to focus on more creative activities that benefit our customers and the environment. “

AI frees up customer agents to work on more complex cases, he says. Vodafone also says that Azure OpenAI is helping customers find their websites more easily, with initial evidence doubling the number of successful online customer journeys, and reducing follow-up calls by 10%. .

image caption, Scott Perry says AI frees up staff to do more interesting work.

While many observers fear that AI could lead to massive job losses in the telco sector, as menial tasks become automated through software, the GSMA's Mr Sinclair believes it could actually be empowering. It can, especially for low-income countries.

“AI will give emerging markets a specialist tool to help them catch up,” he argues. “We're in favor of trying to democratize AI so that it's not just the rich who can use it.”

He believes that some of the disruptive work around AI has gone too far, and so he takes a more optimistic tone.

This is a view from Ian Fogg of CCS Insight: “AI has been around for a few years, used for specific. [telecoms] But now it's being applied in so many areas – networks, devices, software – that any tool we use now has the potential to become much better.

“AI has the potential to green networks and make the world a more efficient place.”

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