Generative AI: The next phase of cloud transformation for communications service providers

Communication service providers (CSPs) are at an inflection point. From stagnating revenues, to network strain in meeting the demands of 5G, to challenges in delivering innovative customer experiences, there’s enormous pressure on the telecommunications industry to transform.

Over the past few years, CSPs around the globe have turned to artificial intelligence (AI) to address some of these challenges, but the lion’s share of an operator’s operational expenses are still spent on infrastructure and data management. This has limited their ability to capitalize on core data assets and develop differentiated customer experiences that meet individual needs. 

Enter generative AI, a type of machine intelligence that’s received enormous attention as of late. We’ve all marveled over its ability to generate text that reads like it was written by a person, to create new images, and to build even musical scores. It’s a riveting addition to the AI toolset — and one that complements machine learning (ML) and its ability to identify patterns to make predictions, spot efficiencies, or interpret large data sets. 

But while there’s a lot of hype around generative AI, at Google Cloud we view it through a much more practical lens for the telecommunications industry. Generative AI can accelerate the transformation already underway, with its potential to streamline many of the tools and processes that CSPs engage with daily, bringing a new level of natural interaction between people and computers, and enabling machines to be programmed to carry out an action with a spoken request, and respond in natural, interactive ways. 

Generative AI builds on existing Google Cloud data, AI, and ML services. For example, Contact Center AI, with human-like interactions between callers and computers, has been successfully adopted by CSPs for many years, increasing the satisfaction of both customers and call center workers. As we add generative AI to this technology, CSPs and their customers will see even greater capabilities and impact, for example, virtual agents that not only provide helpful information, but also let customers make payments and execute other transactions. With generative AI, CSPs will be able to harness customer call summaries to better understand customer sentiment and identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. CSPs could also easily and quickly build and deploy virtual agents informed by customer conversations that enable more innovative and personalized customer interactions. And that’s just the start.

Three key areas

The contact center is just one of the areas where practical and generative AI will help drive new value. When reflecting on the key challenges facing CSPs today, three areas in particular stand out where generative AI may be transformative:

  1. Personalized experiences: In addition to further improvements in customer call center interactions, generative AI can deliver improved personalization in ecommerce interactions — a big factor in helping customers sort through their choices of phones and calling plans. Personalization is also important for lowering churn, offering relevant new services, and managing the customer lifecycle. For example, generative AI could enable CSPs to produce marketing campaign content customized for select themes, and target individual customers with customized text and images. 

  2. Autonomous networks: Generative AI will also help to pave the way for autonomous networks by connecting multiple complex AI/ML models used across network planning and operations with large language models (LLMs) that can understand network behaviors and create action plans in areas including network capacity planning and performance. For example, generative AI will enable CSPs to train models with customer experience and sentiment data to build better prediction capabilities. Importantly, the customer data sets used to tune these models are not public, but curated internal customer data — significantly enhancing privacy, factuality, and relevance, while protecting intellectual property. In addition, generative AI will be able to help network planning and design, which requires high levels of reporting and analysis.

  3. Streamlined operations: Both operations center uptime and field service efficiency are crucial for managing costs and improving customer satisfaction. In particular, applying generative AI to field service devices can speed up diagnostics and analysis, and can even help with installation, parts, and troubleshooting, and minimizing the number of times companies have to send out trucks and improve field-service training. Generative AI will also provide a productivity boost to IT development processes, enabling code generation and troubleshooting to deliver reliable software products and services.

Data security and reliability

An under-discussed area in generative AI is the importance of data quality and data security in building and training the LLMs that power the technology. Many CSPs are rightly concerned about intellectual property leaking both into and out of LLMs, risking the security of their systems and their intellectual property. We’ve long offered industry-leading data security and privacy technologies, and with generative AI integrated with Vertex AI, we can ensure all data is secured within the CSP’s environment.

Meanwhile, to ensure that their LLMs generate accurate information, CSPs are building out scenarios and use cases for training on smaller, controlled amounts of their own data, sometimes accompanied by highly trusted sources from partners and others. Google Cloud also provides tools including Prompt Engineering, Tuning, and Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback to further ensure data factuality and reliability. This will likely result in the first generative AI applications targeted to smaller, high-impact problems, like optimizing network topologies. 

The human element

Of course, people are critical to the success of generative AI, whether that means solving problems in call centers, field service workers combining AI information with their own knowhow, marketing and creative teams brainstorming with generative AI to make new presentations and marketing materials, or operations engineers augmenting and approving an AI suggestion. We’ve built a lot of amazing technology to help augment what people cannot do: synthesize millions, if not billions, of records and sources to help energize new workflows and productivity.

Telecommunications is a fast-changing industry that is tech savvy and hungry to learn and deploy the best possible new technologies, and that includes generative AI. Each meeting with a CSP inspires new ideas, sparks more use cases, and leads to more industry-changing initiatives. It’s exciting to see this pace of change, and we are only just getting started.

We look forward to showing you more soon as we deep dive into some of the exciting CSP industry use cases in upcoming blog posts. We also invite you to find out more about how Google Cloud is partnering with CSPs around the world to deliver a holistic cloud transformation.