Takeaways from Adaptive Spirit 2024: AI-Driven Telco Transformation


Over the years, Adaptive Spirit’s Annual Event has grown into an incredible networking opportunity for the telecom industry in addition to supporting a fantastic cause. The event kicked off in 1995 when The Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) of the Rockies was looking for a not-for-profit organization to support and learned that the U.S. Paralympics Ski team was on the brink of disbanding due to a loss of funding. This prompted CTAM to establish an annual event designed to raise money for the U.S. Paralympic team while bringing together executives across the telecom industry.

Today, telcos across North America sponsor the event in Vail, Colo., making a significant fundraising impact on development and training programs supporting remarkable adaptive athletes like Mike Schultz, a gold-winning U.S. Paralympic snowboarder and founder of BioDapt, a company that develops high performance prosthetics used for action sports.

Like many of today’s telecom industry gatherings, AI was a hot topic at Adaptive Spirit. The weekend kicked off with a panel discussion comprised of industry experts in AI including Ross McWalter, Head of Telecom Applications at Amazon Web Services (AWS); Marjorie Sedillo, Vice President of Data Science at Charter; Chad Dunavant, Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy & Product Officer at CSG; Babak Hodjat, CTO of AI at Cognizant; and Jan Neumann, Vice President, Machine Learning at Comcast.

The panel discussion surfaced three key takeaways on AI.  

The power of AI systems has always been there, but the catalyst of today’s AI revolution is scale and democratization.

Artificial Intelligence isn’t new. AI-focused tech companies like Cognizant have been refining machine learning models for decades. But the catalyst of the tectonic shift in AI we’re all feeling right now is propelled by scale and democratization. Today’s large language models have essentially been trained on the entirety of the content available on the internet, and at this scale, human like reasoning emerges from the systems. The combination of powerful new GPU hardware and massive investments in data centers, power delivery and fiber connectivity are providing the fuel for the AI revolution. As noted by Hodjat of Cognizant, “Leaders in the AI industry never thought this would happen so soon and be this powerful.” But we’re here, and every industry including telecommunications is reaping the benefits of AI.

At Alianza, we’re helping our service provider partners transition core communications infrastructure to the cloud, and once they’re there we can leverage AI to provide analytics, insights and proactive actions, improve operations and the end-user experience. Our strategic collaboration with AWS is helping us equip service providers with generative AI (GenAI) via Amazon Bedrock and other capabilities from their impressive AI portfolio.

Responsible AI is critical for telco success.

We’ve all seen it in the news – GenAI-powered chatbots spewing out odd or off-putting messages. From a telecom perspective, chatbot “bad actors” could be detrimental to the customer experience. When telco customers seek to integrate AI into existing systems, their primary concern is ensuring the technology effectively solves their specific challenges without causing negative disruption. Ross McWalter shared AWS’ take on preventing bad actors: build strong AI guardrails. Integrating AI guardrails into large foundational models like Bedrock ensure GenAI-powered chatbots are honest, helpful, and harmless. A good example of this is the AWS collaboration with AI safety company Anthropic whose systems implement a framework known as “constitutional AI.” With strong safety guardrails in place, the Anthropic large language model is constantly checking itself against a human centric bill of rights to ensure chatbots are meeting specific standards in all of their content generation and human interactions.

It isn’t always about the “wow” moment with AI. The real transformation for the telecom industry comes when we use AI to make incremental differences.

Service providers can integrate Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) into their cloud infrastructure to streamline service management. With AIOps, telcos are equipped to analyze traffic, customer behavior and network performance to understand areas of improvement and enhance their end-user customer experience. While these incremental shifts may not be monumental or flashy, over time they will transform the way telcos operate, driving substantial operational efficiencies.

Along these lines, telcos should also be thinking about how they can go beyond using AI to improve their own operations and offer AI-driven insights to their end-user customers. We’re working on this at Alianza as we bring GenAI-driven analytics to all types of phone lines for the millions of SMBs across North America to enrich their communications in compelling ways. You can read more on how we’re bringing AI to Main Street through our service provider community here.