Key CSP technical staff gave a ringing endorsement to the potential for AI to transform network operations, with a clear majority of those quizzed by networking systems provider Ciena backing the sector’s ability to generate revenue from the technology.

Ciena teamed with research company Censuswide to probe 1,500 telecom and IT engineers across 17 countries over CSPs appetite and readiness for AI. The study found rising confidence about the technology’s potential in areas including network performance, revenue opportunities, cloud services and job creation.

The company stated more than 50 per cent of respondents believe AI will improve network operational efficiency by at least 40 per cent.

Ciena noted most believe fresh approaches across fibre infrastructure and operations will be required, with 49 per cent pointing to “new traffic and network analysis software”; 43 per cent “upgrades in switches and routers”; and 40 per cent seeking broader investment in 800G technology.

The company stated the results highlighted “the multi-faceted approach operators are adopting to bolster network capabilities”.

In terms of revenue potential, 46 per cent pointed to financial services, 43 per cent media and entertainment and 38 per cent manufacturing.

Ciena stated respondents found “multiple avenues” to revenue generation, with 40 per cent identifying a need to make it easier to integrate third-party services into their networks. Security and privacy was chosen by 37 per cent, with the same percentage backing new products as a sales driver.

There is also potential around tailored subscriptions (35 per cent) and differentiation on quality of service (34 per cent).

Ciena stated its research also highlighted “the critical role of cloud” in deploying AI across networks, with 43 per cent expressing preference for using private cloud and 37 per cent public. The company noted “only 21 per cent” are planning to employ a hybrid cloud set-up.

Bucking concerns AI is coming for all occupations, the research found 67 per cent believe it could “be a force for job creation”, particularly in cybersecurity, machine learning and programming.

Ciena found geographical differences, with CSPs in India the most optimistic over AI’s revenue potential and those in the US the least.

Mexican CSPs were the most positive over job creation, with Japan-based providers least confident.

“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 realise the benefits,” Ciena’s international CTO Jurgen Hatheier commented.