Anil Kaul, Co-founder and CEO, Absolutdata

Covid-19 has forced offline businesses to close temporarily, while at the same time introducing new horizons of remote workspaces. We are living in a world where the mildest fluctuation in digital connectivity leads to great anxiety. Telecom operators have never been more relevant than they are now. They are connecting families and communities while helping businesses and institutions to continue to stay logged in. Communication service providers have displayed agility, and have assumed the responsibility for remote working, online learning and social distancing while keeping the populace entertained through their offerings. They are currently actively involved in enhancing their efficiency to deal with the situation while taking note of how the contagion has disrupted their planned investments, especially in 5G. These companies have also stepped up their endeavours to provide networking solutions to those countries and sectors that are involved in leveraging data to track and curb the spread of the pandemic.

Probable impact on the telecom industry

  • Telcos are offering networking tools at reduced or no cost to customers to expand their user base and cash in on the newly created demand.
  • Network systems are reporting increased traffic as social distancing has also exponentially impacted the volume of calls in many parts of the world.
  • Telcos are extending significant chunk of network capacity to support smooth remote working for businesses and virtual classrooms for learning.
  • Telcos are taking measures to maximise the customer experience while providing access to networking services. For instance, they have issued guidelines to online video streaming platforms to operate on
    lower bitrates to maximise the reach, while accommodating bandwidth for other essential services.
  • A one-of-a-kind collaboration between competitors can be seen, such as borrowing spectrum from rival companies.
  • Adopting innovative approaches to sell products and services to customers because of the lockdown.

Rising to the occasion

Due to the global crisis, telcos are likely to speed up their digital transformation by strengthening infrastructure. Consumers and businesses will demand an enhanced and more consistent omnichannel digital experience with an emphasis on digital self-service. A surge in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will be seen to provide relevant and significant insights for:

  • Enhanced network quality: AI and machine learning (ML) will be incorporated by telcos to optimise features in networks and predict failures in telecom sites. Automation will lead to error-free results by alleviating human intervention in network designing. AI can help service providers to automatically optimise the network quality based on traffic information in a given region and time.
  • Efficient planning, operations and design: AI and ML will be leveraged to foresee potential bottlenecks in the network traffic. This enables a close assessment of the network capacity requirements and reduces the need for resource over-provision. AI can influence futuristic models by improving product designs and services, life-cycle management and operations (offline and online), based on data constantly being produced by telcos.
  • Real-time customer support: Virtual agents are much more effective in resolving real-time customer grievances and providing personalised solutions about connectivity and network performance. Virtual assistance technology powered by NLP (natural language programming) and NLU (natural language understanding) finds issues such as incorrect cabling and guides the customer to fix it by viewing video streams. Many such AI-driven agent solutions that work on identifying keywords are already transforming other businesses around the world.
  • Personalised offerings: By shrinking massive data into indicative patterns and figures, AI can help telecom companies with customer segmentation, preventing customer conversion, predicting lifetime value of the customer, product development, improving margins, price optimisation, new consumption patterns and more. Based on this information, telcos can curate the best services and ultra-personalised products for its online customers.
  • Self-optimisation: The predictive powers of AI can be utilised to detect and fix issues that may arise for customers. Data driven insights help companies monitor equipment, learn from historical information, anticipate equipment failure and proactively fix it. AI can also help networks continuously adapt and reconfigure, based on the current needs, to effectively provide consistent service.
  • Expenditure planning: An increased expenditure and cash crunch can be seen amidst the economic slowdown. AI can assist mobile operators to determine which of capital investment in the network will provide the most value. Operators collect accurate data about when, where and how much subscribers use the network. By running the data through algorithms, a digital operator can conclude when and where the data is utilised the most and who it affects. This enables operators to direct their expenditure to optimise or upgrade the specific network up to a limit, to enhance customer satisfaction.

A brighter road ahead

The silver lining in the current economic scenario is people’s increased connectivity and growing familiarity with digital tools. The present-day crisis has enabled a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis for telecom operators that have gained unrivalled hands-on experience in network traffic management. The situation will help in incorporating AI- and ML-driven technologies into network solution systems to revolutionise how businesses and institutions work in the future.