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In an exclusive interview, Jay Srage, head of operations at the Michigan Ross School of Business in MEA and managing director at Centrigent Consulting DMCC, discussed the benefits of integrating AI into telecommunications strategies and the top industries that are impacted by digital transformation as well as the overall future of the telecom sector.

Major companies have begun utilizing technologies like machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing to ensure that they stay competitive in their respective market sectors. Could you please tell us more about the benefits of integrating AI into telecommunications strategies?

Integrating AI technologies into telecommunications strategies started a few years back and has [now] started to reap the benefits, which are many. But to summarize into four major areas of improved efficiency, the first and foremost is improving customer experience by analyzing customer data to personalize services, recommend relevant products and provide instant responses through virtual assistants or chatbots, giving the telecom service provider a competitive advantage. Secondly, AI optimizes network performance by monitoring traffic patterns, predicting failures and dynamically allocating resources, leading to enhanced reliability and reduced downtime. Thirdly, AI enables predictive maintenance by analyzing real-time data to detect anomalies, identify potential faults and schedule proactive repairs, minimizing service disruptions and operational costs. AI also automates operational tasks like billing, customer onboarding and network configuration, increasing efficiency and cost savings. Lastly, AI assists in network planning and expansion by analyzing usage data and population trends, helping companies make informed decisions about investments and infrastructure upgrades.

What is the current state of AI in the telecom market?

The rapid acceleration of generative AI deployment since the fall of 2022 has pushed telecom companies to race to deploy advanced technologies in one or more of the above-mentioned areas of improvement. According to AIthority, AT&T is transforming customer experiences using AI and Machine Learning applications. These applications have enabled the company to improve forecasting and capacity planning with field staff to deliver efficient customer assistance. They recorded a 7% reduction in miles traveled per dispatch and a 5% increase in productivity, which also allowed them to manage 15 million alarms per day. Another example is Deutsche Telecom, which has developed a chatbot using generative AI, Tinka, that helped the company process about 80% of the queries, significantly increasing their customer satisfaction and reducing cost. These are only examples and an indication of what’s yet to come.

In the region, we have seen the major group telecom service providers evolving their strategies to become technology companies such as e&, Zain and STC. Service providers such as du have also been very active in integrating AI to improve their network planning and efficiencies. The trend has begun, and telecom service providers will gradually integrate those advanced digital technologies into their operations, organizations and business models. Consumers will stand to see the benefits in only a few months with better technical support, customized product offerings and improved network performance.

What are the top industries that are impacted by digital transformation? Which sector is affected most?

Digital transformation is a macro-event that will revolutionize every aspect and sector of the economy. Different industries react at different speeds. Besides telecom, surprisingly, the sector that was historically seen as the slowest to adopt new technologies with long design cycles that is now at the forefront of accelerated deployment of advanced technologies is the automotive sector, transforming the car from a transportation mechanism to a connected technology platform. Another sector that is currently undergoing significant transformation is finance and banking. Besides the hype of digital currencies, AI is being integrated to improve the profitability and efficiency of operations, mostly in three major functions of bank operations: risk management, fraud management and compliance. Enterprise software companies like ServiceNow are quick to integrate AI into their automation processes by partnering with Nvidia in order to deliver on the promise of automated, reliable and efficient back-office operations. Another industry that is benefiting from AI is supply chain and manufacturing (Industry 4.0). With the robotization of manufacturing, the supply chain is integrating AI to reduce the time of product introduction to market, better forecast demand and supply, and automate inventory placement and allocation, improving both delivery times and customer experience.

How do you envision the future of the telecom sector? How will AI affect its pace and trajectory?

I will simplify this answer with two messages: the first is that the vision of an all-digital network has begun and will be enabled with AI, cloud, Network Function Virtualization, SDR and other digital technologies. The other message is that the opportunity and the era for telecom companies to become technology companies that provide services to enterprise and consumers, and not just connectivity, has begun.

In your opinion, what are the different ways that artificial intelligence can aid in improving environmental sustainability?

There are many areas where AI can aid in improving environmental sustainability. The one with big impact is energy optimization, where AI can analyze energy usage patterns, predict demand, and optimize energy distribution. It enables smart grids to integrate renewable energy sources effectively. Another area is in sustainable agriculture, where AI assists in precision farming by analyzing data on weather patterns to optimize resource allocation and irrigation. Transportation also benefits from AI, where it can optimize transportation systems by analyzing traffic patterns, enabling predictive maintenance and optimizing routes. It reduces fuel consumption and improves traffic flow.

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