Telcos expect GenAI to have a rapid impact – report

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Dec 19, 2023

Source: TM Forum 'Generative AI: Operators take their first steps' report.

Source: TM Forum 'Generative AI: Operators take their first steps' report.

  • Generative AI (GenAI) has a lot of potential use cases for telcos
  • The TM Forum asked network operators about their views on GenAI 
  • Most expect it to have a significant impact on their businesses within the next two years

The majority of telcos expect generative AI (GenAI) to have a “significant” impact on their businesses within the next two years, according to the results of a recent survey carried out by industry body the TM Forum. 

The Forum received responses and feedback from 104 senior executives from 73 operators that were used to create a report, Generative AI: Operators take their first steps. Of those respondents, 57% believe that GenAI/large language models (LLMs) will have a significant impact on their business within the next one to two years, while 37% believe it will take two to five years. Just 6% believe it will take longer than five years for the impact of GenAI to be significant.  

With the expectation that GenAI will have an impact in the near term, how are telcos figuring out the best approach to exploiting the technology’s potential? While vendors and other tech firms are very keen to get involved and develop a new area of business engagement with the telcos around GenAI, it seems the operators are leaning more on their in-house teams (at least for now) to figure out a strategy and, when they do seek external help, it is the public cloud giants rather than traditional vendors that are more likely to be engaged.

When asked to rank “the most important sources of knowledge about GenAI for your business”, the telcos’ own internal teams ranked highest, followed closely by the public cloud companies, as the chart above shows. Legacy vendor and integration partners ranked lower than industry analysts and consultants. Of the survey’s telco respondents, 53% said their company had set up an internal GenAI centre of excellence.    

Not surprisingly, given the relatively short time that GenAI tools have been available for general use, there is no unanimous approach to GenAI strategies. About half of the respondents plan to devise an entirely new strategy to harness the potential of GenAI, while the other half plan to approach it as part of their existing AI strategies. 

And it’s not just the telcos that are thinking about how GenAI impacts what they do and how they do it. In response to the expected impact of generative AI, the TM Forum is developing a new data architecture blueprint as part of the evolution of its Open Digital Architecture (ODA), which is gaining traction in the operator and vendor community – see DT, Orange et al join the ‘running on ODA’ club.

But, of course, the use of new technologies does not come without concerns: When asked about the risks associated with the use of GenAI/LLM technology, 80% of respondents cited privacy and security, 74% cited the ‘lack of truth’ function (which can lead to the generation of factually inaccurate responses), 74% cited the legal considerations associated with the use of public data and 73% cited concerns related to the leak of proprietary data. 

The report is wide-ranging and detailed and provides fascinating insight into the way telcos are addressing the opportunities and challenges afforded by GenAI – it’s well worth a read. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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