Telecom Providers Look to AI for Major Improvements

By Greg Tavarez June 06, 2024

The rumble of data traversing continents, the hum of servers whirring to life – the backbone of our digital world, the communications network, is on the precipice of a transformative leap. For decades, these intricate systems have facilitated our reliance on information exchange. Now, a powerful tool is poised to reshape the landscape: AI.

A new study reveals a surge of optimism among communications service providers regarding AI. Commissioned by Ciena, the research surveyed telecom and IT engineers globally.

The central theme of the study revolves around AI's ability to propel network performance to new heights. Nearly all respondents, at 99%, believe upgrades to fiber-optic networks are crucial to handle the surge in AI traffic. 

The traditional copper cables that form the backbone of many communication networks simply can't handle the deluge of data expected with the rise of AI. Fiber-optic cables transmit information using light pulses, which travel significantly faster and encounter far less interference compared to electrical signals in copper. This translates to vastly increased bandwidth, the critical capacity needed to handle the complex data exchanges and real-time processing demands of AI applications. 

Without the fast speeds and reliability of fiber optics, networks would become bottlenecks. Upgrading to fiber is akin to widening a highway – it allows for a much higher volume of data traffic to flow efficiently to ensure the smooth operation of the AI revolution.

Additionally, participants identified a multi-pronged approach to achieve this goal. Upgrading network analysis software and traffic management tools topped the list, followed by investments in new switches and routers and cutting-edge 800G technology. This highlights the multifaceted strategy operators are adopting to enhance network capabilities.

OK, so networks are upgraded to handle AI traffic. Now what?

Well, this is the time for CSPs to look at revenue opportunities out there.

According to the report, financial services, media and entertainment and manufacturing are sectors expected to generate the most AI traffic and, consequently, revenue opportunities for CSPs. 

The study investigated potential avenues for generating revenue from AI. Opening networks for third-party integrations emerged as a prominent strategy at 40%, followed by security and privacy services at 37%. New product offerings and tailored subscription packages were also seen as lucrative paths. 

Interestingly, 34% of respondents believe differentiation through superior quality of service can be a key revenue driver. For example, two companies offer similar AI-powered services – one with a network prone to lag and outages, the other with a rock-solid, high-performance connection. Businesses looking to leverage AI for real-time applications or seamless data processing will be more likely to choose the CSP (News - Alert) that guarantees consistent, reliable service. 

By prioritizing exceptional QoS, CSPs carve out a niche in the market and attract customers who value stability and speed.

As we round out this article, let’s switch from customers to another important treasure for CSPs, their employees. There is this belief that the implementation of AI guarantees job losses. But it does not have to be that way.

CSPs believe AI will create new jobs, with cybersecurity expertise at 31% being the most in-demand skill set, followed by machine learning and programming/coding, according to the report.

“Understanding emerging technologies like AI is an essential step toward staying competitive in today’s constantly changing digital landscape,” said Jürgen Hatheier, Ciena’s International Chief Technology Officer. “The survey highlights the optimistic long-term outlook of CSPs regarding AI’s ability to enhance the network as well as the need for strategic planning and investments in infrastructure and expertise to fully realize the benefits.”

With a focus on network optimization and revenue generation, Ciena’s study confirms that CSPs are poised to leverage AI's potential for growth.

Edited by Alex Passett
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