Comarch is a provider of complete IT solutions for telecoms, working with some of the worlds leading SPs: Vodafone, T-Mobile, Telefónica, E-Plus, KPN and MTS. For Total Telecom, Comarch are also a key partner at the annual Total Telecom Congress

With the 2021 now firmly underway, Total Telecom caught up with Rajmund Zielinski, IAA Product Manager at Comarch to get his thoughts one of the industries hottest topics: AI. 

In the wake of the coronavirus, digitalization has accelerated around the world and telcos are required to handle ever more data. How can operators use AI to gain value from this data?

With the amount of data accelerating through the roof, and the increasing complexity of networks and operations, AI is no longer a facilitator – it’s a must. In order to keep up with the market needs, communication and digital service providers must utilize AI-driven technologies. It’s not even about thriving – it’s about surviving. 

When it comes to gathering and processing data, AI can help telecoms in various ways, from providing better customer service, through optimizing network operations, to enabling preventive and predictive maintenance and allowing more precise fraud detection. Real-time analytics, automated solution provisioning and corrective actions make artificial intelligence truly invaluable for modern telecoms. These all allow long-term cost reductions, resource optimization, security intensification, and, in the end – technology monetization. Without them, CSPs cannot survive in the digital, complex data-driven world.

What role will AI play in telco cybersecurity?

Given the abovementioned increase in the complexity of networks and operations, telecoms need to think about the potential threats that this entails. Ensuring security becomes ever more challenging, and fraud management is definitely a subject worth paying attention to. 

Unsurprisingly, artificial intelligence will play a big role in fraud prevention in the future, as it is most likely the best currently available solution for swift analysis of events and identification of potential threats. AI-driven technologies for cybersecurity are and will be able to provide telecoms with tools to reduce the risk of system breaches and improve security, while enabling efficient work. We actually did a free white paper on using AI against fraudulent activities this year. If you’d like to dig deeper into the subject, I’d recommend reading it. 

Using 5G to help attain Industry 4.0 is a major talking point right now. What role does can AI play in this transformation?

Well, we believe it’s important to determine that there are two 5Gs – 5G network and 5G services. What we are seeing now  is the development of the 5G network. This is big, but not as big as the 5G services that are yet to emerge. The 5G network offers us a huge jump in connectivity, to faster, swifter, low-latency networks. But it is its application that will make the real changes. And these changes won’t be possible if AI is not implemented. 

Industry 4.0 is about merging physical and digital technologies, and artificial intelligence will make that connection possible. AI is like a building block to enable 5G services, and 5G services are what Industry 4.0 is about. For the first time, things will be able to communicate in order to optimize the process of manufacturing and distribution of goods. It will be a very advanced type of communication and, thanks to AI, it will be able to respond to changes in customer requirements as they arise. It will no longer be about delivering components just in time – it will be delivering complete products and services at the moment we think about them. Right now, we think about robots, wearables, VR headsets, smart cities… but who actually knows how the real Industry 4.0 will look? This might just be the next great leap in technological history, and the only thing we can be sure of is that AI will play a giant role in enabling this revolution as it makes it possible to complete actions that are beyond the capabilities of humans.

Many people fear that AI will result in fewer jobs for humans, as computers can perform their tasks much more efficiently. Do you consider this a significant barrier for AI adoption? Is a hybrid human-AI model the solution?

This is a subject that the technological industry doesn’t usually like talking about. The threat is real, and right now it is one of the biggest barriers faced by many workers at all levels. We’d like to think that AI won’t change much in the area of employment, but let’s be honest – it most likely will. Employees’ fear also translates into slower AI implementation. But the problem is that, in our digital world, AI is a must, not a choice. 

But we also must remember that AI won’t be able to fully replace humans, and we can use the technology to our benefit – to help us with tasks that we cannot do or aren’t willing to work on. What’s more, as the fear or being replaced also reaches high management and politicians, there’s hope for very unique solutions such as AI taxation, where automated tools and services such as robots “pay” taxes, while humans relax.

All in all, no technology that we know of is capable of replacing humans. We are still needed, and a hybrid solution based on the AI-human model is probably the best one possible. As for how it will look, we can only wait and see. 

In what key areas do you think operators are currently adopting AI too slowly?

Operators, and – to be more specific – CSPs, know perfectly well how to count, which means they are also aware that AI hasn’t been the most profitable business to date. Therefore, the pace of implementing AI systems is quite slow as communication service providers try to optimize costs and spending. Nevertheless, advanced work is underway, mostly when it comes to research and development. Everyone wants to be ready, but also frugal. 

Right now, most telecoms focus on utilizing AI in anti-fraud processes and some BSS operations. But, given the promise of the 5G network, most work ahead of us lies in delivering and maintaining services. When anticipated 5G services finally arrive, AI will be a must. Well, unless CSPs would like to stick to traditional systems and double their employment levels (and costs).

If you’d like to read more about how operators utilize AI, the extent of their spending on AI/ML-driven technologies, and what are they hope to achieve thanks to these technologies, feel free to take a look at our 2020 free report “Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and the Future of Telecoms”, which is based on an online survey of telecoms around the globe.