The Five Nine Podcast: IBM & GSMA partner to democratize AI

Recently, IBM and the GSMA announced a partnership to grant telcos of all sizes access to the power of generative AI and accelerate its adoption across the telecommunications sector. The partnership focuses on global reach, with the GSMA committing to undertake a series of training sessions around the globe and virtually alongside IBM, to bring AI tools to everyone and experimentation, with the GSMA Foundry providing a space to innovate and explore GenAI capabilities.

In this episode of The Five Nine, host Alejandro Piñero is joined by Stephen Rose, General Manager of Global Industries at IBM, and the GSMA’s CTO, Alex Sinclair, to explore the partnership further and understand the motivations behind it.

As a starting point, Stephen Rose and Alex Sinclair agreed there was a need for further understanding of the evolution of AI across the industry and the true impact it can have on the daily operations of carriers, as well as the customer experience. In Stephen’s words, the GSMA and IBM identified a fundamental challenge in explaining the difference between generative AI and traditional AI, and how they will change the way that the telco business operates.

Secondly, there is a large and expanding gap between those already implementing AI (usually those telcos with more resources and larger budgets), and those who see it as unattainable, and prefer to focus on maintaining their current operations. In fact, in their own research, IBM found that only 40% of telcos are “exploring or experimenting with generative AI.. Similarly, GSMAi’s research found that 56% of their surveyed operators are “actively trialing generative AI solutions (…) but adoption is less prevalent amongst mid-sized and smaller operators surveyed.”

This latter point, from GSMA’s point of view, is critical. As a global representative of the industry through its operator and industry members, the GSMA has a mandate to make knowledge and technology available and accessible to its members. As Sinclair puts it, it comes down to democratizing AI. Only by making it accessible to all can it have a truly global impact on the industry and maintain a level playing field. However, the research is clear. The smaller players are not looking to adopt it as quickly as the larger carriers.  The training element of this partnership is a key component in addressing this growing divide, by bringing in executives from carriers large and small and giving them the tools and platforms to explore GenAI use cases relevant to them. The training program, designed for telecom leaders, will span a wide range of topics, from fundamental AI principles to specialized Gen AI applications in telecoms.

Combining this global reach with IBM’s know-how and their watsonx platform with GSMA’s reach, they hope to give the telecommunications community the right tools to innovate and build new capabilities into their networks. This is why, on top of the training program previously described, the GSMA Foundry program will work closely with IBM to allow their members to innovate and experiment with Generative AI models using watsonx.

This week’s podcast will dive deeper into the challenges our industry faces in adopting AI, and how two organizations have come together to try and bridge its adoption gap.