PARTNER FEATURE: Digital transformation is being promoted as the key weapon for operators wanting to boost financial and efficiency returns. But achieving these aims requires careful consideration and planning, according to Huawei, a major provider of the technologies and service skills.

Speaking at MWC24 Barcelona, Bruce Xun, President of Global Technical Services with Huawei, said the company had started to help operators solve the issues surrounding digital operation transformation more than 10 years ago. “At that time the discussion was concentrated on technology, automation and the use of big data. Now, actual transformation is far more central with the focus being effectiveness and addressing the pain points that are stopping operators achieving tangible business value.”

“We’ve made a lot of encouraging and exciting progress together with operators in addressing various transformative scenarios. This has ranged across Africa to the Middle East, from Latin America to Asia Pacific where we continue to work closely with operators to achieve high quality efficiency, deliver the ultimate experience for business development and drive the uptake in connectivity and mobile money services.”

The Huawei exec claimed that operators are in a unique position when it comes to unleashing the full potential value of AI. This is based, according to Xun, on them having ubiquitous connectivity, over 100 billion data records per day, billions of entries of telecom knowledge and decades of telecom operations experience.

“The concept of digital twins plus AI can create new operational modes, and together with converged data plus AI, can drive new service growth. The in-depth collaboration of telecoms and AI will accelerate operators’ transformation to digital intelligent service providers,” said Xun.

Operations need to be more productive
One African operator illustrated a ‘pain point’ by pointing to growth in data traffic that was now leading to a fall in actual revenues. “So the big challenge for us is, how do we start making the network more productive? The reality for us is that this is a capital intensive business and the ongoing investment is still high. We’re looking to address this concern by introducing a more sophisticated customer value management system.”

The operator exec said its existing customer value management process currently produced a revenue increase of about 3.8 per cent. “We think there’s another 2.2 per cent revenue lift, so we’re developing a customer decision model with maybe 2,000 variables. But my ambition is that as we become more sophisticated with AI, it will help us get that lift.”

Warming to the topic, the operator exec confirmed that the company was under pressure to make the operations more productive and profitable, and then use AI as an application in support of this. “We need to understand more about dynamic traffic availability, etc., so that we can start creating products on demand. This should then allow us to start being a lot more elastic with pricing, and this is another aspect where AI will be of great assistance.”

A large Middle Eastern operator was keen to detail what operations transformational progress had already been made. “New technology, and AI specifically, is essential for reaching our future performance targets in autonomous operations with service centric and customer centric models. AI applications can be applied in all our operational areas to maximise the utilisation and monetisation of the data, such as predictive analytics insights to understand and cope better by knowing our customers habits.”

The operator exec added: “AI should also be utilised to analyse network traffic patterns and identify the areas of optimisation. To this end, I think we need to align our strategic objectives with the kind of abilities that we need for the future. And this will mean maximising the value of new technology, specifically AI.”

Separately, a Professor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong put forward the view that telecoms is one of the top five business sectors that could benefit from the large language model (LLM) in AI. “It needs three things for this to work successfully. Firstly, there is a requirement for computing power – and it needs a lot of computers. Next, it entails the development of some clever algorithms designed for LLM AI usage, and lastly you need to have a lot of data.”

“The telecoms sector has an unfair advantage because they have all three of them. These three aspects are all needed for generative AI to be useful.”

The Professor claimed that there are a growing number of operators already investing in network transformation. “Generative AI is a disruptive technology that we need to embrace whether now or in the future. We have to face up to it because the competition has already started to investigate and implement the use of generative AI for their business operations. Definitely those who do not use the technology will stand to lose out.”

However, the Professor concluded: “To be clear, AI replaces tasks, not jobs. People are worried that AI will replace their jobs and could cause them to resist the adoption of AI.”

ARPU boost
Adding evidence that telcos can significantly gain from digital operations transformation, Huawei’s Xun outlined the success of an Ethiopian operator. “We have supported this telco to implement an intelligent payments and micro-finance solution to boost the performance of its mobile finance services. Last year, they experienced a doubling in their Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) of mobile money and increased the total revenue by seven times.”

While accepting that connectivity is at the core of a telcos business, the Huawei exec stressed that utilising AI to analyse massive operational data, operators can provide personalised, precise and convenient services, together with maximising network monetisation through multi-dimensional product design and on-demand marketing.

“Telecom + AI will accelerate an operator’s digital operations transformation. Telecoms cognition is the core which includes telecoms knowledge, decades of experience and best practices. Digital is the cornerstone which includes high-quality data with suitable platforms and sufficient digital talent,” emphasised Xun.