Earlier this week, Vodafone unveiled its partnership with Google, aimed at generating network insights with a cloud-based AI system, according to Light Reading.
Together, the companies developed an AI platform called Neuron, built on top of Google Cloud. Neuron will aggregate and draw insights from Vodafone’s global network data. The project contributes to Vodafone’s goal of decreasing operations costs by at least €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) per year by the 2021 fiscal year, per Light Reading.
Before turning to Google, Vodafone used an outdated network management system that could not easily be scaled. Neuron will replace Vodafone’s cumbersome platform of over 600 on-premise servers stratified across 11 countries, which were tasked with analyzing the troves of network data from Vodafone’s 25 countries of operation and 625 million customers. By comparison, the Neuron system has centralized access to network data stored on the cloud, and storage can be flexed according to demand.
Vodafone was looking to transform its internal tools, and, like other global telecoms, had to decide whether to revamp operations in-house or partner with big tech. In explaining why Vodafone chose to partner with Google, Vodafone CTO Johan Wibergh said the organization lacked the in-house expertise to develop the same capabilities, and that working with Google proved to be more cost-effective compared with an entirely in-house transformation, according to Bloomberg.
Big tech companies including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon can offer extensive cloud storage with advanced, embedded AI systems — these can be used to, for instance, predict network demand and allocate capacity accordingly. Telecoms such as AT&T and Verizon tried to build their own cloud business units to compete against these services, but failed. With this clear gap in capabilities, several other large telecoms — including Telecom Italia and Three UK — have likewise turned to big tech to facilitate similar digital transformation initiatives.
Telecoms with expansive operations should reduce complexity by forging partnerships with big tech companies. While the likes of Telekom Austria have taken the in-house approach to support network planning, these outfits tend to be relatively smaller and more regionally specific, making the process more manageable.
Larger telecoms sustain more complex operations — which promise to become even more complex with 5G — making scalable network insights operations all the more crucial. The effectiveness of network insight tools also takes on a greater importance at this scale, so the potential delay from ramping up an internal system gets even more costly — making the advanced systems of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon even more alluring.
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