Artificial Intelligence in Telecoms


Mobile Telecoms has now become a mature industry and a platform for future innovations. Internet of Things is one such innovation, however, many other technologies are arising including; Blockchain, Industrial Internet, Autonomous Vehicles, Virtual Reality, Drones and Augmented Reality.

In most of these cases, the customer engagement and most importantly the data fall outside the remit of telecoms. For example, Uber and Netflix capitalise on mobile telecoms networks and use web, mobile and AI technologies as part of their offering.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is based on deep learning algorithms. Deep learning involves automatic feature detection from data. AI techniques can be applied to a range of data types including:

  • Images and sound (CNNs),
  • Transactional data, Sequences (LSTMs),
  • Text (Natural Language Processing) and
  • Autonomous new behaviour data (Reinforcement learning).

Today, telecoms companies are showing considerable interest in the potential of AI, whether at the front end with improving customer service, or improving service delivery through better network performance and reliability.

Improving networks and processes

Currently telecoms operators are starting to consider the idea of AI to improve networks. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) announced in April 2017 the establishment of a new group to examine how AI might be used to improve the way in which telecoms networks operate. The group is concentrating on Cognitive Management Architecture, to enable the creation of networks which can adjust services based on user requirements, environmental conditions and business goals. The system will learn from experience, configuring networks to meet demand. It will therefore improve network use including traffic classification, anomaly detection and prediction, resource utilisation and network optimisation, ultimately reducing costs.

Members of the group include Verizon, Huawei and China Telecom. Verizon was already considering the use of AI, through its Exponent initiative, and AT&T is also experimenting with the concept. AT&T’s Domain 2.0 initiative uses the potential of software-defined networks, aiming to transform the network and infrastructure to more closely resemble cloud computing.

New network infrastructure initiatives include:

  • Self-optimising networks (SON), where the network’s goals and limits are set by designers, and the network’s control software works within those boundaries to make the network as efficient as possible.
  • Deep neural networks may enable machines to perform human like tasks, allowing them to help digitalising the business and providing better customer engagement.
  • Software defined networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) will increase the diversity of possible traffic through the network. Both services and bundles will be able to become more sophisticated, with customers even able to interact with the services behind the network.

 Enhancing customer services with AI

These initiatives largely address network functioning and particularly efficiency of processes. However, AI can also be used to improve customer service. For example, a number of telecom operators are offering AI systems which can control home environments, manage scheduling and make music recommendations, such as NUGU from SK Telecoms. This seems like competing with Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant, however, other telecoms companies have focused AI more on their core services. For example, IPSoft’s Amelia, can replace customer service teams. The Amelia system interacts with customers, learning from experience and automating activities, ultimately improving the customer experience.

Earlier this year (April 2017), Vodafone announced the arrival of its new chatbot, TOBi, to help customers online and via My Vodafone app’s messaging service. TOBi will be able to handle a range of customer service-type questions, including troubleshooting, order tracking, and usage. This service will also speed up responses to simple customer queries, therefore improving the customer experience.

O2/Telefonica has also implemented AI technology for some customer service interactions. Its new platform, Aura, is designed to reduce customer service costs. Jose Maria Alvarez Pallete, Telefónica’s CEO, suggested Aura will improve customer loyalty and experience by handing back control of the data generated by smartphones to customers. It can also be used for tasks such as informing a bank that you are going abroad, or controlling your home environment or wi-fi.

AI algorithms can combine historic patterns and behavior with ongoing real-time engagement to provide the right next best action to the customer based on the context of their journey. The outcome for the consumer will be recommendations and offers that are personalised, well targeted, and relevant. The result for the Telecoms operator will be an increase in revenues and ARPU.

Capitalising on AI

There is no question that AI has huge potential. What is not entirely clear is how this potential will play out in telecoms. The fact that ETSI’s members have thrown their weight behind network management systems suggests that improving efficiency and processes, and therefore increasing capacity and reducing costs, is a priority.

Customer services systems, however, are already with us, and it is surely only a matter of time before all telecoms providers are using them, gaining insights from the data and monetising the results.

Esri UK have been working on customer service centre solutions for over a decade and are now supporting telco’s to create greater understanding of their big data though data visualisation and analytical techniques. Machine learning requires analysis techniques provided by Geographic Information Systems (GIS), such as prediction, classification, and regression and uniquely bring a location perspective to outcomes. The results from these can provide support to both telecoms network optimisation and the customer experience.

About Esri

ESRI is the world leader in location intelligence, data visualisation and analytics. Empowering any business and individual to extract valuable insights from location data. ESRI transforms layers of geospatial information into data-driven maps that enable visual discovery of trends and patterns to make better, faster decisions. ESRI’s technology is used together with big data and real-time systems to develop custom location intelligence applications. ESRI help our clients map and understand their world’s data in a more meaningful way.

For more information on Esri please follow this link or visit

The power of Operational Awareness – keeping cities moving

iStock-636900814 - L - London roads for awards 02.10.17.jpg

I’ve been blogging about this year’s Customer Success Award winners and in this post I’d like to turn to our customers who were successfully shortlisted in the Operational Awareness category.

The premise of Operational Awareness is pretty simple; how multiple stakeholders can make more timely decisions thanks to access from real-time, accurate and easy-to-understand views of operational data.   But, if you dig a little deeper, the power of GIS and spatial analytics combined with any structured or unstructured data can deliver incredibly impactful operational efficiencies for any organisation.   

So, firstly, congratulations to our two runners-up, the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) and North Wales Police. 

North Wales Police are responsible for policing an area of 700,000 people over challenging terrain in addition to large urban settlements.  It monitors and analyses police officer locations by ingesting 500,000 GPS locations per day, which is used in conjunction with the ever changing crime data to direct ongoing operations and improve resource allocations, to ensure that they offer the best possible service to the public.

Meanwhile the UKHO has developed a near real-time picture of global shipping traffic, using satellite derived data,  driving a better understanding of the most popular shipping routes and informing global security considerations. 

However, the challenge of managing and coordinating approximately 500,000 road works, a year, working alongside London’s 33 boroughs and other stakeholders, made Transport for London (TfL) the worthy winner.  The impact of roadworks – from pothole repairs to some of London’s high profile projects such as Crossrail - can be extremely disruptive, if not planned and coordinated properly.  

Managing thousands of road work events every day, across multiple stakeholders including utility providers as well as the aforementioned London boroughs, is a complex task, requiring a fine balance of the public’s expectations of a reliable road network, with the requirements of utility and maintenance works, road improvement schemes and emergency events such as a ruptured water main.

GIS sits at the heart of LondonWorks, the TfL-owned platform used by all of London’s permitting authorities operating within the capital, to ensure that this balance is achieved.  The LondonWorks platform has been in operation since 2005, but in 2016 TfL set out to completely renew the suite of applications, updating the capabilities and underlying technology.   Based on Esri’s ArcGIS platform, the system is consuming a live feed of London’s street works data and this pathfinder project has set the foundation for business transformation to meet TfL’s current and future business challenges.

I understand that next steps now underway include the delivery of real-time mobile data capture of roadwork inspections, with interfaces to other key business systems ensuring that roadwork permits are enforced, monitored, reported and penalties issued where breaches occur.   Most appreciated by anyone living in or travelling in and out of the capital, I’m sure, and a real inspiration for other world cities trying to keep their cities moving.

To submit your entry for the 2018 Customer Success Awards click here.

How Innovative Field Data Collection is Driving Enterprise-Wide Benefits

Remember when field-based workforces used paper-based methods to record data, before driving back to the office and entering it into their GIS? It reminds me of when I used to go to the local video store to rent a film. And that was back in the day. Thankfully, not only do I now have Netflix but field based workforces have the capability to get accurate and timely information in and out of the field. Increased accuracy of data collection ultimately improves the value of an enterprise GIS, while empowering a more productive workforce, streamlining workflows and reducing operating costs. 

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Transforming How We Think and Act

A record breaking 18,000 people attended the Esri User Conference 2017 in San Diego, USA, earlier this month and heard first-hand how GIS is transforming the way we think and act, across almost every industry sector and in countries right around the world.  The post conference website is now available, so you too can watch the inspiring presentations and learn how organisations are using GIS, in a multitude of ways, to address immensely complex challenges. 

In this blog, Lorna Nightingale, Head of Marketing for Esri UK, shares some of the highlights from the Esri User Conference 2017 and encourages UK customers to consider telling their own stories at next year’s event.

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Next week we’re sponsoring the INCA Full fibre and 5G seminar

Following the planned decoupling of BT and Openreach in October this year, there will be a significant opportunity for small operators and start-ups to capitalise on the Openreach network.
Esri UK is particularly proud therefore to be sponsoring the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) Full fibre and 5G seminar in London on 12th July. Alongside the main agenda,  INCA members will be able to explore how geospatial technology is emerging as a key enabler of strategic planning and effective management of fixed, mobile and small cells network operations.

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Esri and BT Labs collaboration provides fixed and mobile quality of experience (QoE) analysis

ESRI is working in collaboration with BT Research to investigate the quality of experience for both BT and EE customers. This research utilises ESRI’s ArcGIS geo-spatial platform, providing analysis and data visualisation to help understand data patterns and highlight pinch points on its network to help improve the customer experience. 

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The 2017 Customer Success Awards – congratulations to our five worthy winners!

On Tuesday 16th May I was the host of this year’s Customer Success Awards at Esri UK’s 2017 Annual Conference.  Having been involved with the judging since the outset, I felt exceptionally proud of the very credible submissions we received from the broadest spectrum of GIS users.

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Operational Intelligence in Water Utilities

Leading Water and other Utilities are constantly innovating to optimise their operations and improve customer service. The latest advances in technology are enabling these initiatives and leading to an emerging ‘Operation Intelligence’ approach, driven in particular by a technology called Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

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Why the telecoms industry must get a grip on the Internet of Things

Establishing a solid telecoms network that can cope with the capacity and coverage required to power the Internet of Things (IoT) is a serious challenge telecoms companies need to address within the next 12 months if they are to keep pace with the rapid evolution of digital technologies.

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Delivering Operational Intelligence

When I ran an operations division for a utility, one of my favourite employees was a guy named Stanley. Stanley started as a field worker, became a foreman, was promoted to supervisor, and advanced to regional crew manager. I remember how he worked, which largely explained his rapid ascent to management.

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How GIS is starting to underpin successful BIM strategies

While BIM (Building Information Modelling) has been around for a decade or more, legislation has recently been introduced in the UK which compels organisations wishing to tender for government construction contracts to use a BIM process to record, store and exchange digital packages in which spatial context is significant.

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Unique Digital breaks new ground in audience-targeted marketing

A creative digital marketing agency in London is using GIS to successfully focus its marketing activities on specific target audiences.  It employs Esri’s ArcGIS platform in the planning, auditing and evaluation phases of its campaigns to deliver the optimum return on marketing investment for its clients.

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Knight Frank steers UK retailers towards profitable expansion

The world’s leading independent real-estate consultancy is using Esri’s ArcGIS platform to help retailers find the most advantageous sites for new stores across the UK.  The firm gives its clients greater confidence in their business plans and enables them to expand their retail operations more quickly.

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Everything starts with a base map

Sovereign Housing has been working hard to place GIS into the hands of over 500 members of staff, a strategy that led to it winning the Esri UK Customer Success Award for ‘Cartography is for Everyone’ this year. Andrew Bradley, Strategic Insight Manager at Sovereign Housing, outlines how skillful cartography helped it win.

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Endangered birds of prey receive vital protection

An urgent conservation initiative is being spearheaded by The Golden Eagle Trust in Ireland to save the Hen Harrier, one of the country’s most endangered native bird species. By improving understanding of habitats, Esri’s ArcGIS is playing a key role in helping to safeguard this iconic bird of prey for future generations. 

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Mobile data collection saves fieldworkers one day a week

Winner of this year’s Your GIS is Mobile category, in the Esri UK Customer Success Awards, Fera Science is a shining example of how mobile GIS can inject new levels of efficiency and accuracy into field data collection, as David Tait, Esri UK Customer Success Manager, explains.

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