Inside the AI-Powered Telco

Will we one day see an all-AI telco, with no employees? It’s unlikely for now. Even the best LLMs remain prone to logical shortcomings, hallucinations, and bias. But as refinements continue...telcos could function with AI, supporting a leaner, more geographically distributed workforce.
will be data-driven and precisely targeted, matched to customer preferences and behaviors. When dealing with virtualized salespeople or support staff, customers will communicate with individually tailored agents, each with access to every interaction you’ve ever had with them. This creates in effect a dedicated account manager for every user, who responds to customer queries in natural language and their preferred language, helping with tasks such as top-ups, renewals, upgrades, and more.

Through analysis of customer behavior and preferences, marketing campaigns will be generated automatically, offering fully personalized customer experiences and hyper-personalized products, plans, and device recommendations, based on usage and intent data. Interactions will be monitored and adjusted on an ongoing basis through emotion recognition and sentiment analysis.

AI-generated insights will enable proactive assistance before issues arise, predicting future customer behavior and providing help and support to customers before they even realize that they need it.

Automatic – for the People?

Will we one day see an all-AI telco, with no employees? It’s unlikely for now. Even the best LLMs remain prone to logical shortcomings, hallucinations, and bias. However, as refinements continue, and effective business use cases are carefully determined, telcos indeed could function with AI supporting a leaner or more geographically distributed workforce. This need not, however, mean mass layoffs. Already, telecoms is the leading sector when it comes to reskilling its workforce, with 23 percent having retrained at least one group of employees, and Telefónica currently boasting Europe’s largest internal retraining program of any industry.

AI can be a powerful companion, automating day-to-day tasks and managing virtualized networks while maintaining a culture of human-driven collaboration. But just because you can reduce headcount doesn’t mean you should. By replacing much or all of the customer-facing side of their businesses, telcos might in fact end up negatively affecting the quality of their customer experience.

In fact, for all the possibilities of automating support, surveys reveal that, in general, 88 percent of customers prefer to talk to a human, and are likely to be frustrated by the inability to speak to a real person. Still, if done well, AI chatbots have been shown to achieve similar customer satisfaction scores whilst being much quicker than traditional customer services.

In time, telcos are likely to not need quite as many people to run them. While many new jobs will be created, many more are expected to be lost, for a net reduction of 14 million jobs across all sectors in the next five years.

As everyone waits on the many ongoing legal cases against GenAI providers to be settled, it’ll be some time before these technologies start to make significant waves in the industry beyond the current hype. The human element remains crucial for guiding AI in the right direction, and is likely to always remain a major component of any AI-driven system.

Nevertheless, there is a remarkable opportunity for vendors to implement and deploy AI-powered solutions for distinct business use cases, trained on their own organizational data. Right now though, according to AWS, only 15 percent of telcos are looking to build their own models in-house, with the rest opting to feed their proprietary enterprise data into off-the-shelf solutions — probably a wise move considering the rapid evolution of generalist LLMs which are outperforming industry specific solutions.

Telcos that embrace AI and LLMs across various aspects of their operations could see great improvements to their customer satisfaction rates and business efficiency, predicting and preventing issues, and ensuring the highest level of security.

We’re still in the very early days of AI, and it’ll take some time before suppliers fine-tune their product offerings and commercial models and decide how personal data can be safely used. For now, the all-AI telco remains a distant dream, but with the accelerating rate of change in the technology and its applications, its realization may come sooner than many think — and take those unprepared by surprise.


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