The telecom sector is not isolated from the technology industry’s layoff pandemic. Around 350,000 employees lost their jobs in the past 30 months as tough times continue plaguing tech employees.
Vodafone said recently it would cut 11,000 jobs over three years, as the telecom company revealed a strategy of recovery to revive its fortunes after long periods of poor fiscal performance.
UK telecom behemoth BT Group said recently it will cut between 40,000 to 55,000 of its workforce between 2028 and 2030, for many of the same reasons behind tech and telecom hardships, but also indicating that AI will replace 10,000 of these jobs.
Many hail the arrival of AI to streamline operations, enhance customer service and retention and cut costs in the telecom sector, but employees see it as a threat, as they should.
AI in telecom is projected to grow from $1.21 billion in 2023 to $10.4 billion by 2030, or an annual growth of 43% in the period, according to Market Research Future.
It’s easy to see why.
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AI in telecoms
AI in telecom enables the extraction of actionable business insights, enhances customer experience, and can contribute through predictive maintenance, network optimization, anomaly detection, robotic process automation, and fraud detection.
To stay ahead, telco operators will need to make critical investment decisions around customer experience, in part by offering efficient and effective processes to keep costs down while improving the retention of end users. Front-runner telcos are deploying AI solutions and finding success in achieving those aims with smart technology implementation.
In 2021, Nokia launched AVA telco AI-as-a-Service, providing cloud-based AI solutions and enabling communication service providers (CSPs) to automate capacity planning and network management, among others.
Real-time analytics, driven by AI and ML could be a game-changer for improving customer experiences, reducing costs, generating new revenue, and achieving the scale and security demanded by 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Global communications company Ericsson says on its website that by using a combination of currently available and well-understood AI techniques within a flexible architecture, “We are able to reach a high degree of practical autonomous operation. This will lead us into an era of intelligent, autonomous networks with close to zero touch.”
It then mentions that a series of technologies, solutions, and services that use intelligent, machine learning to improve network performance, enhance customer experience, and reduce operational costs and energy consumption are achieving a 40 percent reduction on bad quality cells.
It said it uses AI and data analytics to create energy efficiencies on its radio network and succeeds in reducing energy OPEX by 15 percent through intelligent energy optimization.
Vodafone’s results showed revenue for the year to March grew by just 0.3% to $49.8 billion and adjusted earnings declined to $16 billion, below the company’s own guidance, mainly because of high energy prices.
Following the job cuts announcement, Vodafone shares slid more than 4% in London.
“Our performance has not been good enough,” CEO Margherita Della Valle said. “We will simplify our organization, cutting out complexity to regain our competitiveness.”
The company employs 104,000 people worldwide, has business in 21 countries and has partnership agreements with local operators in another 46 locations.
BT Group meanwhile said that its layoffs will include both direct BT employees and third-party workers, reducing around 31-42% in company staffing.
“By continuing to build and connect like fury, digitize the way we work and simplify our structure, by the end of the 2020s BT Group will rely on a much smaller workforce and a significantly reduced cost base,” BT Chief Executive Philip Jansen said in a statement.
BT Group reported a 5% increase to $9.8 billion of adjusted core earnings for the full year leading to March 2023 with pre-tax profit down 12%.
BT shares were down 6.31% upon the job cuts announcement which include 15,000 jobs building fiber-optic broadband and 5G mobile networks and 10,000 servicing and repairing them. Its current workers count is 130,000 including both staff and contractors.
“All the equipment’s simpler and newer and more flexible, more nimble. And we’ve got AI and all the data that can help create self-healing networks,” BT CEO Philip Jansen said. “So we’re going to be a massive beneficiary on efficiency and costs, which is why we know we won’t need all these roles in the future.”
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