London, UK – December 7, 2023 – New research from TM Forum, the leading global alliance of telco and tech companies, found that 94% of telecoms operators believe generative AI (GenAI) will have a significant impact on their business in the next one to five years. Results show more than half of those surveyed are expecting this influence to take place in their business within two years. The report, ‘Generative AI: Operators take their first steps’, explores the perceptions and adoption of GenAI in the telecoms industry.
Since ChatGPT’s launch brought GenAI and large language models (LLMs) to the fore 12 months ago, 55% of CSPs report already having made good progress in their adoption of the technology. A further 31% are running experimentation trials to develop proof of concepts before wide scale deployment. The report identified customer operations as the most widely embraced use case so far, with 92% using GenAI’s abilities to process unstructured data alongside structured data to improve customer chatbot experiences.
Despite confident adoption by many to date, there are challenges ahead. When asked what risks were causing the biggest concern for CSPs, they stated:
- privacy and security (80%)
- lack of truth function (74%)
- legal implications through the use of public data (74%).
Varied implementation strategies to combat risks
Implementation strategies are varied. Half of telcos plan to devise an entirely new strategy to harness the power of GenAI. The other half, who currently utilise AI and machine learning (ML) for decision-making and predictive tasks, plan to integrate GenAI to complement their existing strategy. In terms of the technology stack, 59% of CSPs plan to use an open-source cloud model and off-the-shelf LLMs to enable rapid deployment and scalability.
In contrast, 32% will opt for on-premise models to mitigate concerns of data security. 21% of operators also plan to make significant investments in GenAI to develop their own proprietary technology. To overcome concerns around lack of truth and legal implications from off-the-shelf LLM usage, CSPs would train custom models with their own data and with specific telecom use cases in mind, in turn aiming to create significant competitive advantage.
Mark Newman, Chief Analyst, TM Forum: “GenAI has the power to completely overhaul the industry in a myriad of ways, but several issues must first be addressed. Choosing to adopt off-the-shelf LLMs versus developing their own proprietary models will largely depend on which use cases operators want to address, and their appetite for investment. The highest value of GenAI lies in customer personalisation and network optimisation, both of which require access to highly sensitive data that operators will want to fiercely protect.”
Nik Willetts, CEO, TM Forum: “GenAI is the critical technology to drive telecoms growth, with its ability to democratise access to data and insights, improve operational efficiency and transform customer experience. Yet embracing this technology responsibly and affordably at scale is a challenge. TM Forum is supporting and empowering operators to navigate these complexities. Our innovative work provides practical support to the whole telecoms ecosystem, exploring cutting-edge use cases, setting global standards, governance and AIOps frameworks, through to collaborative projects to build LLMs and data management APIs.”
In response to the significant opportunity presented by GenAI, TM Forum is developing a new data architecture blueprint as part of the evolution of its Open Digital Architecture (ODA). This will build on ODA’s existing Information Framework (SID). As CSPs transform their networks and IT systems using cloud-native principles, and adopt architectural concepts such as TM Forum’s ODA, it is important that AI/GenAI becomes an integral part of the system design rather than a “bolt-on”.
For further information the report ‘Generative AI: Operators take their first steps’ is available to download from the TM Forum website.
The report is based on a survey of 104 senior executives across 74 operators in the telco industry, of which more than half of respondents were in technology-related roles.
About TM Forum
TM Forum is a global alliance of telco and tech companies, leading the industry in defining the building blocks for new operating models, impactful new partnerships, and advanced software platforms.
TM Forum helps its members unlock the value of data to create nearly endless opportunities for players across the communications ecosystem. At DTW Ignite, Accelerate and Collaboration events, TM Forum provides a platform for industry change-makers to share groundbreaking innovation, market developments, product launches and business transformation journeys.
We are the only industry body to count the world’s top 10 CSPs and all the key hyperscalers as active, strategic members. With over 800 members, we are on a mission to reinvent the telco industry as a vibrant part of the digital landscape – and a driving force in shaping its future. To find out more, visit: tmforum.org
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