LIVE FROM MWC SHANGHAI 2018: The telecoms industry must move “aggressively” on artificial intelligence to help ease the huge strain on telecoms infrastructure that is inevitable with the increasing consumption of mobile data, urged Azita Arvani, head of innovation partner and venture management at Nokia.

Arvani (pictured), who spoke to Mobile World Daily before AI in Telecoms: Deep Machine Learning and Big Data session on 29 June, said mobile data is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 46 per cent between 2016 and 2021, according to industry statistics, and such uptake is creating a “profit challenge” for mobile providers.

The solution, she believes, lies with AI.

“To counteract this, operators can use AI-powered platforms to flexibly develop new revenue streams by expanding enterprise and customer applications,” she said. “AI is essential to automate the operations and management of increasingly sophisticated and complex telecoms networks as they evolve to 5G.”

Customers, whether industrial, enterprise or retail, would equally benefit from AI-powered platforms, which would be able to generate customised services and promotions, faster support, automated failure handling, enhanced data protection and security and fewer network outages, believes Arvani.

However, she warned that there are three big challenges that must be overcome before the industry can feel the true benefits of the technology.

Firstly, operators need to move fast. “The telecoms industry is the lifeblood of digital transformation for all industries. So, we need to move aggressively to leverage AI to benefit all,” she said.

Secondly, the industry “needs to think strategically about data assets” which are captured and processed by telecoms operators.

“Data quality, enhancement and conditioning are critical to its usefulness. Operators should continue to champion data privacy matters as they have done in the past,” she explained.

And finally, she highlighted talent. “There is a big shortage of general AI talent globally and an even bigger shortage of telecom-knowledgeable AI talent,” she said.

Impact to society
Along with challenges specific to operators, Arvani offered some suggestions that could help ease concerns that AI as a whole is having a negative impact on society.

“We believe in AI augmenting human intelligence rather than replacing it. Hence, we’d want to make sure that AI is designed to be ultimately beneficial to humans and mitigate collateral damage and unintended consequences,” she said. “Three pillars of human-centred AI that will help with building trust are: eliminating biases, developing sensible regulations and establishing proactive labour policies.”