3 in 5 telcos think AI will boost network efficiency by 40% 

More than half of telecom and IT engineers believe the use of AI will improve network operational efficiency by 40% or more according to a global study commissioned by Ciena.

In addition, an overwhelming 85% of respondents express confidence in communications service providers’ (CSPs) ability to monetise AI traffic across networks.

The research was conducted by Ciena in collaboration with Censuswide, surveying 1,517 telecom and IT engineers and managers at CSPs in 17 countries across the globe, including Australia, Japan, India, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore.

Key findings for Singapore include 80% of local CSPs believing AI will cause a net increase in jobs amongst service providers, compared to a global average of 67%.

In Singapore, switches and routers were seen as the most likely to be upgraded by operators to support AI traffic (51%), and  95% of CSPs are confident they will monetise AI traffic over their networks.

“Understanding emerging technologies like AI is an essential step toward staying competitive in today’s constantly changing digital landscape,” said Jürgen Hatheier, Ciena’s International CTO.

“The survey highlights the optimistic long-term outlook of CSPs regarding AI’s ability to enhance the network as well as the need for strategic planning and investments in infrastructure and expertise to fully realise the benefits,” said Hatheier.

A key theme from the study is the opinion that AI will enhance network performance. To achieve this, participants believe new solutions across fiber network infrastructure and operations will be required. 

According to the study, the most popular strategies believed to improve performance include upgrading networks with new traffic and network analysis software (selected by 49% of respondents), along with upgrades in switches and routers (43%), and investment in 800G technology (40%), underscoring the multi-faceted approach operators are adopting to bolster network capabilities. 

In fact, almost all (99%) respondents believe they will need to upgrade fibre-optic networks to support more AI traffic.

Globally, CSPs believe the sectors that will generate the most AI traffic, and therefore revenue opportunities, are financial services (46%), followed by media and entertainment (43%), and manufacturing (38%).

Respondents also see multiple avenues to generate revenue from AI. Specifically, 40% believe it will be from opening their networks to third-party integrations; 37% believe revenue will come from security and privacy services; the same number (37%) believe it will come from new product offerings; 35% believe it will be from the creation of tailored subscription packages; and 34% believe revenue will be from differentiation on quality of service for connectivity.

The research highlights the critical role of cloud in supporting and using AI across networks, with 43% of CSPs favouring private cloud deployment for AI services, while 37% lean toward public cloud providers’ data centres. Meanwhile, only 21% of respondents plan to adopt a hybrid cloud model.

According to the study, 67% of CSPs anticipate AI to be a force for job creation and identified key areas of expertise necessary for developing and launching AI services, including cybersecurity (31%), followed by machine learning (30%), and programming/coding (30%).