Telefónica dips toe into AI waters with Huawei SOC tech

Telefónica is set to launch its first artificial intelligence-based operations centre for network management, to drive real-time customer experience analysis and proactive improvements.

The team will launch three Service Operations Centres (SOC) in Argentina, Chile and Germany to pilot the initiative before launching in core markets across the world. In theory, the AI driven proposition will enable Telefónica to capture, in real time, the true quality of customer service experience. The data will help Telefónica improve connectivity and performance for mobile services more proactively.

“These SOCs are the first step in bringing customer experience to the next level,” said Enrique Blanco, CTO of Telefónica. “In the near future the application of Artificial Intelligence to networks will maximize capacity and solve any problems before end users even notice anything.

“The final objective is to manage the network automatically to avert any potential problems. Machine learning is also becoming critical as operators virtualize their infrastructure: networks are becoming dynamic and exponentially more complicated to manage as the control is delegated to the network’s edge. As Telefónica moves towards the next generation of networks, intelligence and analytics are key, to turn  data into a knowledge that enables real-life innovation.”

Loyalty is the big play here, as Telefónica has seemingly identified performance issues as one of the reasons customers are leaving. It would be a fair assumption, as aside from the odd market disruptor, or a couple of quid here and there, there does not seem to be a huge difference in established markets. Aside from performance that is.

Based on Huawei’s SOC technology, the team will use the anonymous and aggregated to anticipate possible incidents and black spots. Should the data be correctly read, improved services, predictive maintenance and network optimization projects can be introduced. The idea is to move from a business model which is developed around ‘scheduled’ network maintenance to one which is ‘predictive’ and ‘proactive’.

It is certainly a brooding collection of buzzwords, but it is an industry trend which is becoming more prominent; effective data analytics. The concept of big data has been around for what seems like forever, though the potential has to-date failed to live up to the promise due to the fact there doesn’t seem to be the technology or personnel to turn the mountains of information into insight. 2017 does seem to have turned a corner as big data looks to return on the investment with the much lauded proactive business model.

The application of AI solutions is not limited to network management however. Recently, Vodafone announced plans to introduce chatbots to help some customers online. TOBi, a virtual customer services’ agent, can handle a range of customer queries including device troubleshooting, usage and order tracking, the team claims.

UK operators are infamously terrible at customer services, though Vodafone believe TOBi offers a solution to reduce waiting times and offer a more efficient service. The pilot platform is powered by a combination of IBM Watson and LivePerson, and is currently available through the website, though plans are to launch the service through the app in the coming weeks.

But for those who fear the end of humanity, the bot will also be able to identify when it would be more relevant to pass the query over to a human. It is another example of AI being used to supplement and improve human roles, with the chatbot taking control of more mundane enquiries and handing over more sensitive ones to a human advisor.

Artificial intelligence has threatened to make a positive impact in the telco industry for some time now, however it would appear to be gaining some traction now.

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