AI to improve network efficiency by 40 per cent or more, finds study

More than half of telecom and IT engineers believe that the use of AI will improve network operational efficiency by 40 per cent or more, according to a study by Ciena.

The report also found that 85 per cent of respondents expressed confidence in communications service providers’ (CSPs) ability to monetise AI traffic across networks.

The research was carried out by Ciena in collaboration with Censuswide, surveying more than 1,500 telecom and IT engineers and managers at CSPs in 17 countries.

Jurgen Hatheier, Ciena's international chief technology officer, said, "Understanding emerging technologies like AI is an essential step toward staying competitive in today's constantly changing digital landscape. 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."

A key theme from the study is the opinion that AI will enhance network performance. To achieve this, participants believe new solutions across fibre 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 (49 per cent of respondents), along with upgrades in switches and routers (43 per cent), and investment in 800G technology (40 per cent), underscoring the multi-faceted approach operators are adopting to bolster network capabilities. In fact, almost all (99 per cent) respondents believe that 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 per cent), followed by media and entertainment (43 per cent), and manufacturing (38 per cent).

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

The research also highlights the critical role of cloud in supporting and using AI across networks. Forty three per cent of CSPs favour private cloud deployment for AI services, while 37 per cent lean toward public cloud providers' data centres. Meanwhile, only 21 per cent plan to adopt a hybrid cloud model.

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

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