In the year 2024, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take a significant leap forward, particularly within the telecommunications sector, according to Martin Tidell, Senior Industry Consultant Telecommunications EMEA at Teradata. A new focus will emerge in the development and utilisation of industry-specific Large Language Models (LLMs) which are considered instrumental to the future evolution of digital assistants in customer service. Tidell highlighted that the Global Telco Alliance, consisting of networks such as Deutsche Telekom and SK Telekom, had begun initial stages of training an LLM particular to telecommunications. Such innovation arises from the realisation that existing LLMs are, for many, too generic to facilitate the creation of a genuinely intelligent chatbot.
"2024 will be the year when Artificial Intelligence (AI) and generative AI will really take off, as telcos strive to improve existing business processes", predicted Tidell. In his view, this will revolutionise activities like customer retention work, cross-selling and up-selling, which have traditionally been optimised using predictive analytics. Tidell anticipates that generative AI will enhance these predictions while broadening their utilisation. One significant case study which supports his argument comes from Stanford University. A research team led by Erik Brynjolfsson found that generative AI could efficiently support less experienced call centre agents in improving productivity and significantly shortening average handling time (AHT), an important industry measure.
As well as foregrounding the potential benefits of AI, Tidell spoke of the increased attention which telecommunications will pay to the security of physical infrastructures and bolstering their measures against cyber-attacks. The onset of the COVID pandemic necessitated an immediate shift in working patterns, which went hand-in-hand with an increased demand for network connectivity and digital technologies. As connectivity exploded beyond the traditional office environment into our homes, Tidell observed that telcos adapted admirably by providing connectivity and capacity. Looking ahead, Tidell surmised that post-pandemic behaviours would highlight transformation imperatives for telcos facing geopolitical change, fuelling an imperative focus on cyber and non-cyber security.
Tidell also foresees changes in the telco industry's approach to digitalisation, especially concerning the increasing importance of cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency as the world grapples with high inflation and economic turmoil. While customer experience and value will continue to differentiate telcos, the returning emphasis on cost efficiency and effectiveness reflects the challenging macroeconomic environment. Tidell expects initiatives to optimise networks, efficient energy management, and smart roll-out of standalone 5G to feature prominently in telcos' 2024 agendas, alongside a continued priority for customer self-service capabilities.