Will AI automation be the next source of telecoms industry disruption?

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Will AI automation be the next source of telecoms industry disruption?

Mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, may be the next thorn in the sides of telecoms and mobile operators. A senior investment advisor has warned that Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI, could make it a lot easier for MVNOs to stake a place in the communications industry.

By taking advantage of AI to automate a large range of processes, MVNOs can become providers of mobile and office-based telephony solutions at a fraction of what it used to cost. AI can also cut the amount of time required to set up the infrastructure to become a provider of mobile and office-based telephony solutions, and business systems could be up and running within a few months.

In South Africa, the government is trying to make entry to the telecoms sector easier and increase competition by reducing the obstacles in the way of setting up effective business systems to take on established networks. At this point, MVNOs such as Virgin Mobile, MRP Mobile and FNB Connect has a market share approaching 2 percent. The government is trying to make the industry more competitive with a policy White Paper on ICT (information and communications technology).

It is thought that the technology with the greatest potential for disrupting providers of mobile and office-based telephony solutions is AI. Business systems could use the technology to incorporate features such as creating bespoke production selections and suggestions, optimising promotions and pricing, or automating other interactions with customers such as support and sales functions.

By using AI, providers could also monitor the satisfaction of customers, and even predict satisfaction outcomes. Inventory could be managed by automated processes and effective allocation of working capital. In addition, automation could be used to generate recommendations for hiring staff and could even be a tool for examining CVs.

Automation driven by AI could be a major factor in assisting business systems become more efficient, agiler and more cost-effective, which could have significant implications for the entire industry.

Shadrack Palmer, a senior executive with FNB Connect, welcomed the South African government’s initiative but said the ICT White Paper needed to be more far-reaching, and that there were still large challenges for MVNOs to overcome. Palmer said the White Paper proposed that existing networks had up to five MVNOs as part of their network, but there was little guidance as to what pricing or wholesale rates from those networks might be.

It has been suggested that network operators stay up to date with changes in the industry by establishing venture capital organisations that can drive innovation. It is thought that many operators could be doing more in-house to foster innovation. With a venture capital arm, networks could also invest in promising technology, or collaborate with startups.

Investing in startups is seen as a good way of encouraging innovation, and not stifling it by simply taking over promising enterprises. While mobile operators have been a bit slow compared with other industries in embracing venture capital initiatives, more of them are now staking a place in the realm of investments.