“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” It may not be obvious at first, but Robert Frost’s poem about standing at the crossroads of choice applies particularly well to the telecommunications industry.

With the rise of 5G cellular networks and the need for more agility during COVID-19, Telco companies have to make a crucial decision: stay in the traditional lanes of providing connectivity or evolve with AI-powered digital transformation. For many Telcos, the “road less traveled” via AI isn’t just a question of innovation; it’s critical to developing new business models that are sustainable and scalable for the future.

The Telco industry’s AI reinvention lies in three key strategies: monetizing at the edge, saving costs through automation and improving customer engagement.

This blog will discuss what each approach entails, why a hybrid multicloud information architecture can accelerate the industry’s digital transformation and how IBM can help through the launch of IBM Cloud for Telecommunications and our unified data and AI platform, IBM Cloud Pak® for Data.

Monetizing at the edge

One strategy Telcos can use to grow business is to deliver higher value services through edge computing – a distributed computing framework that analyzes data closer to the source rather than at a data center. Edge allows Telcos to offer critical data and insights through IoT or other devices, helping B2B businesses in various industries make decisions faster with much less latency.

Edge is already possible with 4G, but the rise of 5G promises even greater speed and capacity. For example, in healthcare, patient data from personal health devices can be securely collected during the ambulance ride so treatment is expedited at the hospital. First responders can use drones to rapidly assess emergency situations with real-time streaming video and audio even before they arrive on the scene. ATM machines can alert financial institutions at the moment fraudulent activity occurs.

With edge technologies, Telcos can expand their value beyond providing connectivity to offering higher value services that increase revenue per user (RPU).

Saving costs and boosting efficiencies

Most Telcos deliver services through an expensive and time-consuming array of multigenerational or legacy networks. Creating operational efficiencies is essential to long-term business growth. AI can play a crucial role by enabling zero touch service automation — an  approach for automating the end-to-end network lifecycle on a private, public or hybrid cloud infrastructure at scale.

Using AIOps – artificial intelligence for IT operations, a term coined by Gartner – Telcos can save both time and costs by monitoring network infrastructure, identifying problems such as lag or device malfunction, and taking immediate corrective action. The result is closed loop orchestration and assurance: Telcos can help clients not only provision services (orchestrating virtualized and containerized networks), but it can also assure service quality (closing the loop on maintenance and fixing issues).

Improving client engagement

With digital transformation, Telcos can reimagine what it means to serve customers. AI can help personalize customer experiences, predicting buyer behaviors based on previous purchases or interactions on a retailer’s website. It can also help Telcos speed and simplify customer service through automated service desks. Chatbots can quickly answer common customer questions, such as concerns with network outages, plan selection and billing, or escalate issues to live agents. In one case study, for example, Vodafone was able to use an AI chatbot to handle 100% of its messaging conversations, providing personalized, round-the-clock service and consults.

The need for a hybrid multicloud architecture and how IBM helps

Executing these three strategies requires a robust information architecture that runs on any cloud and out to the edge. This week IBM launches IBM Cloud for Telecommunications, a unified architecture that provides a holistic approach to addressing the industry’s top challenges through a curated set of AI-powered solutions.

A hybrid multicloud architecture is the common thread that enables every offering. It helps data fuel AI by supporting data access and analysis on-prem, on public clouds and on private clouds. Telcos gain the cost-effectiveness of containerized services as well as the flexibility to deploy them anywhere. They can standardize how they deliver and manage networks, apps and data from the network core out to the edge, driving much higher economies of scale than siloed approaches.

IBM Cloud® Pak for Data, running on Red Hat® Openshift, brings together the benefits of a hybrid multicloud architecture on a single unified data and AI platform. It offers comprehensive services such as data management, data virtualization, DataOps, data governance, business intelligence and AI automation. The platform is also designed to work with or complement other key components of IBM Cloud for Telecommunications:

  • Monetize at the edgeIBM Edge Application Manager is a platform that safely creates, deploys, runs, monitors, maintains and scales business logic and analytics apps at the edge.
  • Save on costs IBM Telco Network Cloud Manager is a complete orchestration and service assurance platform for telecommunications clouds.
  • Improve customer engagementWatson Assistant is an AI assistant that uses natural language understanding to recognize, automate and improve responses for faster customer service.

For Telcos looking to modernize their business, AI-powered digital transformation could be a non-traditional but vital path toward a more sustainable future. As Frost would say, “I took the [road] less traveled by – and that has made all the difference.”

Next steps

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