A global study commissioned by Ciena has found communications service providers’ (CSPs) growing optimism toward artificial intelligence (AI), as more than half of telecom and information technology (IT) engineers surveyed believe the use of AI will improve network operational efficiency by 40 percent or more.

In addition, an overwhelming 85 percent of respondents express confidence in CSPs’ ability to monetize AI traffic across networks, Ciena said in a statement.

The research was conducted by Ciena in collaboration with Censuswide, surveying more than 1,500 telecom and IT engineers and managers at CSPs in 17 countries across the globe.

“Understanding emerging technologies like AI is an essential step toward staying competitive in today’s constantly changing digital landscape,

“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 realize the benefits,” said Jürgen Hatheier, Ciena’s International Chief Technology Officer.

It is noted that a key theme from the study is the opinion that AI will enhance network performance.

To achieve this, participants believe new solutions across fiber network infrastructure and operations will be required.

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

In fact, almost all (99 percent) respondents believe they will need to upgrade fibre-optic networks to support more AI traffic.

Globally, CSPs believe the sectors that will generate the most AI traffic, and therefore revenue opportunities, are financial services (46 percent), followed by media and entertainment (43 percent), and manufacturing (38 percent).

Respondents also see multiple avenues to generate revenue from AI.

Specifically, 40 percent believe it will be from opening their networks to third-party integrations; 37 percent believe revenue will come from security and privacy services; the same number (37 percent) believe it will come from new product offerings; 35 percent believe it will be from the creation of tailored subscription packages; and 34 percent believe revenue will be from differentiation on quality of service for connectivity.

The research also highlights the critical role of cloud in supporting and utilizing AI across networks.

43 percent of CSPs favor private cloud deployment for AI services, while 37 percent lean toward public cloud providers’ data centers.

Meanwhile, only 21 percent of respondents plan to adopt a hybrid cloud model.

According to the study, 67 percent 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 cybersecurity (31 percent), followed by machine learning (30 percent), and programming/coding (30 percent).

The survey also yielded interesting results by country, showing how CSPs’ confidence in monetizing AI can vary significantly.

Of note, CSPs in India are among the most confident (95 percent) while the United States is among the least confident (55 percent).

There were similar differences in the optimism around AI’s impact on creating or reducing jobs amongst CSPs, with a 50 percent difference between Mexico seeing the most job creation, and Japan seeing the least (90 percent versus 40 percent).

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.

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