BARCELONA, Spain — Much of the artificial intelligence talk at Mobile World Congress is at the device level — services based on voice recognition, in particular. But AI has a role deeper in the infrastructure, of course, and Ericsson touched on that to kick off the conference Monday morning.
In Ericsson‘s traditional MWC opener for press and analysts, Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm understandably focused on 5G. But AI and machine learning were the second topic of his overview, an indication of how deeply Ericsson expects these technologies to change the network.
An easy-to-understand example of this would be automation. Ekholm rattled off a few stats: In North America, the time to build new network sites has been cut in half; in Indonesia, 70 percent of priority incidents coming in to the customer help desk were resolved pre-emptively.
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The role of AI will get deeper, however. Ekholm laid out the stages of network intelligence that Ericsson expects will unfold:
- Purely reactive — the state of the network today
- Able to predict future outcomes
- Able to suggest actions to humans: “That’s when the network starts to suggest outcome-based scenarios: ‘I know what you would like to happen,'” Ekholm said.
- True intelligence, “where machines actually can see cause-and-effect and proactively solve issues before the subscriber even knows of them,” Ekholm said. At this point, the network is taking care of itself (leaving the role of humans unclear, at least when it comes to day-to-day operations).
Ekholm’s talk was light on technological detail, so it’s unclear what timeframe Ericsson envisions for these stages. He also didn’t mention where the technology will come from. Ericsson hasn’t spoken about artificial intelligence much, so while it’s likely the company has some AI R&D in the works, it’s also possible Ericsson will rely on partners to help bring these ideas to reality.