Telstra adopts Artificial Intelligence – Why?

Telstra is appointing internal product teams to oversee applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning projects within the company. While the details are still under wraps, Telstra wants to use advances in AI to deliver more customer focused solutions that meet customer preferences. It wants a dedicated team to expand the AI capabilities of existing processes and identify which AI features are worth investing in.

Telstra wants to improve service delivery and achieve greater efficiency through its AI program. To understand how and why let us explore AI more deeply.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was only a futuristic concept to the average technology user not too long ago. The general public thinks of AI as a humanoid robot, and for some, there is a lot of mystery and fear surrounding it. The fact though is quite the opposite. AI is not about making machines intelligent enough to become superior to humans. Instead, it is about making machines intelligent to assist people without needing constant monitoring.

For example, say you have AI in the form of a personal assistant on your mobile. This machine would now be smart enough to monitor your life and keep things smooth even on hectic days. It could reschedule meetings if you are stuck in traffic, rebook the next flight if a connecting one was delayed and automatically call the ambulance if you had a heart attack. Another benefit of such AI is to offer optimised suggestions to choice questions. For example, if you want to eat at a specific restaurant, the AI could glance through a list of customers ‘similar’ to you and give you the best response that meets your tastes.

If all this seems extraordinary and impossible, remember that the mobile phone seemed impossible at one time too. Of course, AI technology is currently very nascent, and we are still far from this reality. A combination of the following technologies needs to develop before we start seeing any of the above functionality in the hands of the common man.

Machine Learning :
Machine Learning gives computers the ability to learn without being programmed. Existing data sets are used to teach machines so that they can make accurate predictions on new data. For example, you can use a hundred different dog images to help a computer learn what a dog is. Next time, when you show it an entirely different dog image, the computer identifies it as a dog.

Telstra is using machine learning to respond better to customers. When a frustrated customer contacts Telstra and is passed around from one department to another, the issue gets aggravated. To prevent this, Telstra is trying to predict which customer issues are causing frustration and contact the irate client directly before the client calls them. Such proactive action can significantly improve Telstra’s reputation and business.

Robotics :
Robotics is used to design software or hardware that can substitute human beings. In May, Telstra revealed its expansive adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) technology on projects. It is already significantly advanced, compared to other telcos, in using software robots for internal work like HFC network upgrades or large scale staff training. Software robots are code modules that can intelligently do repetitive software processing.

When Telstra had to enhance its customers’ old data plans in three months, it estimated a requirement of 450+ full-time equivalent staff (FTEs). But using robotics technology, the task was accomplished by 50 software robots, and 23 FTEs. Similarly, when Telstra has to migrate its customers from its old cable network to the new DOCSIS 3.1 network platform, it estimated a staff need of 25 FTEs. This was an especially crucial task that had to be completed within 61 days, a stringent guideline that was part of the Telstra-NBN deal. The task was achieved by 9 robots and just 4 FTEs.

AI – A realm of endless possibilities

The baby steps that Telstra has taken in AI have revealed to the telco giant the immense potential that this technology holds for the future of the company. From better service delivery to cost reduction and increased profits, investing in AI makes complete sense!


Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.