What's a tech conference without the buzzword bingo?

DTW: IGNITE, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – When it comes to some of the biggest challenges facing global communications service providers (CSPs) today, the talking heads on stage at TM Forum's event hit all the buzzwords for our bingo card, including: network operations, artifical intelligence (AI) and automation, APIs and scale.

AI? Bingo!

You wouldn't have needed a crystal ball to predict that AI would be one of the hottest topics at this week's show. After all, the technology has dominated headlines for at least the last 12 months. So it comes as no surprise that it was one of the most talked about subjects in panel sessions.

TM Forum CEO Nik Willets led the charge by discussing one of the key issues operators face as they seek to implement AI:

"Returns on generative AI so far are a little disappointing. We only find a handful of operators finding real possible impact that adds up for their businesses...there's a common set of challenges that are holding us back. Guess what, the data that we train LLMs with dictates how good it is. And it's hard to surface the right data."

Scott Petty, Vodafone CTO, seconded the importance of data quality for telco AI:

“Having a consistent data ocean that’s curated at high quality – that’s really hard work. You literally have hundreds of systems, we need to curate that data…we need to make sure it’s accurate, it’s well managed. Without that data ocean, you have no chance of success generating value. What you get back will be so poor and have so many hallucinations, be so inaccurate. Whatever money you have, put it into building that data ocean capability.”

Lilac Ilan, Nvidia Global Head BD Telco-AI Powered Operations, also spotlighted the need to keep up with evolving models:

“Models are not dead, they need to keep updating.”

Automation? Bingo!

Of course, unless you've been living under a rock you also know that automation is a key priority for operators right now. Why? Because more automation gets them closer to their "North Star" goal of rolling out fully autonomous networks. 

Willets revealed TM Forum has made it one of the organization’s three primary goals to help operators achieve autonomous networks:

“30% of our operating cost is attached to our networks today and they’re most rightly a target for efficiency. But the goal of autonomous networks has to go beyond cost reduction and to the impact it could delivering tailored solutions.... We are exploring the assets and standards and tools that are required, directing members to what’s available today and identifying what’s needed tomorrow.”

But AT&T CTO Jeremy Legg noted it could take quite a bit more time to reach that North Star:

“I haven’t met an autonomous network yet…We’re a ways away from autonomous networks. But there are points within networks that are being made autonomous.”

Scale? Bingo!

As operators push for more openness and intelligence in their networks, the door is opening (no pun intended) to new collaborations with partners who previously may have been viewed as competitors. During a CTO panel that was part of the Day 1 keynote, telco tech chiefs sounded off on why scale matters and (at least when it comes to AI) why it can be hard to achieve.

Abdurazak Mudesir, DT CTO, on why operators need to collaborate with one another around offerings like network APIs:

“We should not underestimate the value of scale because if you start now to expose our own way, then you are creating complexity for consumers and it’s not going to work.”

AT&T’s Jeremy Legg again on the same subject:

“As big as all of our respective companies are, they’re not big enough to rival the broader ecosystem…[through the use of common standards and development kits] The solutions that we offer now can be global rather than regional and that is going to give us a much larger seat at the table.”

Check out this link for all our coverage from the show this week.