Research Note

May 2024 CSPs add AI to their network transformation to-do list

May 2024


LightCounting discusses highlights from FutureNet World 2024

FutureNet World, a two-day communications service provider (CSP) conference, was held in London on April 16-17.

This year, the conference added artificial intelligence (AI) to the general theme of network automation. But FutureNet’s themes were broad with all the CSPs’ main concerns addressed. These included the challenges and status of network transformation, the business climate, network-as-a-service (NaaS), open-source initiatives such as Open RAN and open-source software, and sustainability. The show also had case studies such as Deutsche Telekom’s AI strategy and BT’s NaaS strategy.

The CSPs continue to advance their network transformations to achieve automated, cloud-native platforms that enable the CSPs to expose their network assets. Their aim is to grow revenues and become nimbler operators. The current financial climate does not help, however, making it harder for the CSPs to fund their transformation work and turn off legacy systems.

The CSPs admit network transformation is proving a challenging undertaking. After over a decade of work, much remains to be done. During the last dozen years, change has been continual. CSPs have invested heavily in 5G, adopted virtual network functions (VNFs) running on servers, followed VNFs with a cloud-native approach, and continued to automate their networks. However, the large cloud computing players – Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services – have also advanced in telecom. Now, the CSPs’ latest technology journey is AI and Generative AI. As Verizon’s Adam Koeppe, SVP of Technology Strategy and Planning, said: “This is a multi-year journey and the technology changes quite rapidly.”

Remarks by senior CSP executives at the event’s opening panel were also revealing. Howard Watson, BT Group’s Chief Security and Networks Officer, mentioned how consumers expect ubiquitous, seamless connectivity, yet their monthly payments are insufficient to fund such capabilities.

Vodafone UK’s Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, talked about the challenge of transforming the CSP’s network to enable new opportunities in a challenging financial climate. “If you don’t inject new business models, you will not survive,” said Dona.

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