Getty Images

AI set to improve network operational efficiency by 40% or more

Study of telecom and IT engineers exploring artificial intelligence’s impact on the network sees almost universal belief in need to upgrade fibre-optic networks to support more AI traffic

A global study commissioned by networking systems, services and software provider Ciena has revealed growing optimism toward artificial intelligence (AI), with more than half of telecom and IT engineers surveyed believing the use of AI will improve network operational efficiency by 40% or more.

The research was conducted by Ciena in collaboration with Censuswide, surveying in the last two weeks of March 2024 more than 1,500 telecom and IT engineers and managers at communications services providers (CSPs) in 17 countries across the globe. The countries included were the US, Brazil, Mexico, UK, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Middle East (UAE, KSA and Egypt), Australia, Japan, India, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore.

A standout theme from the study was the belief that AI will fundamentally enhance network performance. To achieve this, participants believe new solutions across fibre network infrastructure and operations will be required.

As revealed in the study, the most popular strategies believed to improve performance included upgrading networks with new traffic and network analysis software, selected by 49% of respondents, along with upgrades in switches and routers (43%), and investment in 800G technology (40%), underscoring the multi-faceted approach operators are adopting to bolster network capabilities.

Almost all (99%) respondents who expect a percentage increase in traffic between datacentres and the network edge to be carried, as a result of AI usage, believe they will need to upgrade fibre-optic networks to support more AI traffic.

In addition, an overwhelming 85% of respondents expressed confidence in CSPs’ ability to monetise AI traffic across networks. The sectors most likely to generate the most AI traffic, and therefore revenue opportunities, are financial services (46%), followed by media and entertainment (43%), and manufacturing (38%).

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

The survey unearthed significant regional differences in CSPs’ confidence in monetising AI. CSPs in India were among the most confident (95%), while the US is among the least confident (55%). There were similar differences in the optimism around AI’s impact on creating or reducing jobs among CSPs, with a 50% difference between Mexico seeing the most job creation, and Japan seeing the least (90% vs 40%).

The survey also revealed the breadth of sectors that different countries see as driving the growth in AI traffic, with financial services, entertainment, manufacturing, healthcare and education all coming out on top in at least one market.

Two-thirds of CSPs anticipate AI to be a force for job creation and identified key areas of expertise necessary for developing and launching AI services, including cyber security (31%), followed by machine learning (30%), and programming/coding (30%).

“Understanding emerging technologies like AI is an essential step toward staying competitive in today’s constantly changing digital landscape,” said Jürgen Hatheier, Ciena’s International chief technology officer, commenting on the study.

“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.”

Read more about AI in networks

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

Data Center
Data Management