Telcos increasingly recognise AI’s potential to enhance services, improve the customer experience, and prepare for the impending arrival of 6G networks.
The telecommunications landscape in the Middle East is undergoing a seismic transformation, and at the heart of this revolution lies the potent force of artificial intelligence (AI). The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst, highlighting the fragility of networks and the pressing need for more robust connectivity solutions. As a result, telecommunication companies, often referred to as telcos, have shifted their focus back to their original mission: providing reliable and high-performing connectivity. The Middle East telecom market is projected to see a substantial rise of $20.57 billion between 2021 and 2026, with the market’s growth rate expected to pick up speed at a CAGR of 3.25%, and AI is emerging as a linchpin in reshaping the industry in this new era.
AI as the cornerstone of transformation
Above 80% of businesses in the Middle East view AI as a top priority for development. Telecom companies across the Middle East also increasingly recognise that AI is not just a buzzword but a pivotal tool in enhancing their services. The power of AI goes beyond mere operational efficiency; it extends into the realm of improving the customer experience, making day-to-day tasks more manageable, and preparing for the impending arrival of 6G networks.
The research behind 6G technology began in 2020, marking the beginning of a long and intensive venture. Multiple conferences, seminars, and conversations suggest that 6G networks are anticipated to be available in the Middle East by 2030.
Predictive maintenance and network stability
The complexity of telecommunications networks cannot be overstated. These intricate systems comprise multiple generations of technologies and many interconnected components, making predicting and preventing network failures and downtime a Herculean task. Enter AI, which can potentially reduce network downtime by a staggering 50%, according to an Accenture analysis.
One area where AI shines is predictive maintenance, utilising weather data patterns and machine learning to anticipate adverse weather conditions, thus safeguarding network infrastructure. It eliminates guesswork and manual tasks, enabling engineers to proactively address issues and reduce downtime to repair, ensuring quicker solutions for network glitches.
Intelligent traffic management
In a region with surging demand for seamless services, AI’s role in intelligently managing network traffic must be noticed. AI systems can autonomously optimise network workloads, enabling telcos to make informed decisions on technology usage during peak hours. Middle Eastern telcos possess diverse capabilities that can be strategically employed for network stability, from 2G to 5G in wireless networks and copper to fibre in wired networks.
During the pandemic, Middle Eastern networks faced unprecedented strains. With parents working from home while their children streamed content and played online games, fibre networks were strained, and speeds plummeted. However, AI came to the rescue by identifying bottlenecks and proposing unconventional solutions, such as recommending parents switch to wireless networks for streaming. These counterintuitive remedies helped maintain network stability and keep customers satisfied.
The foundation: quality data
While AI promises a bright future for the telecommunications industry in the Middle East, its efficacy hinges on the quality of data it learns from. Models trained on incomplete or biased data subsets can lead to inaccurate recommendations and tarnished brand reputation. As the global AI market for telcos is projected to skyrocket from $1.2 billion in 2021 to nearly $40 billion by 2030, ensuring clean and accurate data becomes paramount.
Building on a solid foundation
To fully unleash AI’s potential, Middle Eastern telcos must prioritise curating diverse and unbiased data. This requires a modern data architecture built around a unified data platform capable of drawing insights from various sources, from cloud environments to on-premise data centres. Stringent governance must be upheld to ensure compliance across the board.
As 6G networks loom, Middle Eastern telcos must act swiftly to unify their data infrastructure. Without high-quality data fueling AI models, there is a substantial risk of misunderstanding context and delivering inaccurate recommendations. Building on solid foundations of robust data and AI ethics will be essential for realising the full spectrum of AI’s capabilities and revolutionising the telecommunications industry in the Middle East.
The telecommunications sector in the Middle East is experiencing a renaissance driven by AI. Telcos are reorienting their strategies toward providing resilient connectivity, and AI is at the forefront of this transformation. From predictive maintenance to intelligent traffic management, AI is invaluable in improving network stability and customer experience. However, the success of AI in telecom hinges on the quality and diversity of data, making data governance and ethics central to this technological revolution. With careful planning and investment in AI, Middle Eastern telcos are poised to shape a future of seamless connectivity and enhanced customer satisfaction.