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Business

No stopping the AI train as telcos race toward future

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star
No stopping the AI train as telcos race toward future
These are among the innovations made by the country’s connectivity providers to maximize artificial intelligence (AI) in optimizing their networks.
Businessworld / file

MANILA, Philippines — An automated credit scorer, a bot conversing in Filipino and an internet outage detector.

These are among the innovations made by the country’s connectivity providers to maximize artificial intelligence (AI) in optimizing their networks.

The STAR, through conversations with tycoons, discussed how the telco industry plans to navigate the risks posed by the race to automation.

Despite threats and risks, telco leaders Manuel V. Pangilinan, Ernest Cu and Dennis Anthony Uy believe AI is here to stay, and failure to keep up with its pace could mean losses.

A study commissioned by global networking giant Cisco showed that just 17 percent of organizations in the Philippines are ready to employ AI on a daily basis. Further, three in five firms fear they have only a year to come up with a strategy, or else they will begin incurring losses as a consequence for falling behind.

Cu, who leads Globe Telecom Inc., said the telco is trying to automate credit scoring for e-wallet giant GCash. The app is becoming a top lending choice for Filipinos, releasing a total of P118 billion in loans as of end-2023, and the segment could further grow if the borrowing process is sped up.

“In financial technology, Globe is looking at how AI can automate credit scoring to offer fast and accurate loan services,” Cu told The STAR.

In addition, Globe is developing a customer service platform that can understand and reply in conversational Filipino in hopes of improving communication lines with subscribers.

For Globe, the tactic is to automate as many services as possible on the front end of the network so customers can quickly feel the benefit.

Meanwhile, Converge ICT Solutions Inc. is deploying AI mainly for its backend activities. Uy, who owns Converge, said the company relies on AI in resolving broadband outages.

With this, Uy said Converge improved its mean time to detecting issues by almost 62 percent. It also reduced the average period of repairing service disruptions by 42 percent using AI.

However, as Converge expands its subscriber base, breaching the two million mark last year, the company will automate its front desk, too, to enhance customer service experience.

“We paved the way for the more meaningful use of AI in our network operations, in the backend, now we are embedding this into our customer-facing operations,” Uy told The STAR.

PLDT Inc., the oldest telco among the three, intends to exploit AI in the campaign against digital fraud, as the technology can study patterns in depth, making it valuable in analyzing crimes.

Pangilinan, who heads PLDT, said AI can assess trends in the fastest time possible. This is most useful in examining criminal activities, allowing companies to inform consumers about emerging fraudulent schemes.

The PLDT Group, including mobile subsidiary Smart Communications Inc., recorded more than 16 billion cyber attacks to its own network in 2023, from 182 million in 2022. As such, PLDT is seeking improved efforts, both from the public and private sectors, in fighting off threats.

“AI’s capability to sift through vast data can enable it to flag unusual patterns or anomalies that might suggest fraudulent activities,” Pangilinan told The STAR.

In a study, the International Data Corp. ranked the Philippines 12th in a list of 14 economies in Asia and the Pacific in terms of progress in automation.

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