Countries with a high proportion of workers who rely on the telecommunications network will benefit more from AI than others, according to a new report by Ernst & Young LLP (EY).

According to the research, commissioned by Liberty Global, the U.S. stands to be the biggest beneficiary, followed by Germany, the UK and France.

Titled ‘Wired for AI’, the report analyses the transformative impact of AI and finds that half of all jobs in the U.S. and Europe could leverage AI and generative AI to improve efficiency in at least 50% of work tasks. The study reveals that the telecom industry will play a critical role in helping 7 in every 10 jobs to be augmented by artificial intelligence (AI). This indicates that these jobs – dubbed “highly network-dependent” – will play a key role in unlocking the transformative impact of AI on working practices globally and highlights the telecom industry industry’s central role in propagating its social and economic benefits.

Goldman Sachs estimates a $7 trillion in annual global economic impact could come from AI-enabled gains -equivalent to an additional 120 million workers. Contrary to some recent studies on the impact of AI – such as the World Economic Forum’s prediction this year that 44% of roles could be disrupted by the technology – the report suggests that efficiency can be dramatically improved by augmenting people with AI.

Manuel Kohnstamm, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Liberty Global, comments: “This research clearly demonstrates the critical role that the telecom industry is poised to play in the global growth and development of AI, with the potential to boost productive capacity of major economies by huge margins. Not only that, but if harnessed properly, AI also has immense scope to transform the telecom industry itself.”

“While much recent research around AI has focused on the disruptive impact on jobs, this study paints a brighter picture of the opportunities for progressive companies across multiple industries to boost productivity whilst also improving the lives of their employees. As we increasingly harness AI, we must also not lose sight of the broader responsibility of the telecom industry to ensure the secure, fair, and transparent use of this potentially era-defining technology.”

Dr Harvey Lewis, partner for AI at EY and the report’s author, adds: “Business leaders and policymakers have recognised that AI will transform industries, and it’s no surprise that the telecommunications industry has emerged as a key enabler in this report. Telecommunications companies have been leading the charge on AI for years, demonstrating many useful applications within their networks and in complementing engineering, sales and business roles.

It’s clear that the wider benefits of AI will depend on telecoms offering the necessary connectivity, adaptability, and reliability which will allow all industries to tap into the full potential of AI. As new regulations for AI begin to emerge, this transformative role will also require the industry to lead on the responsible and ethical use of AI by ensuring the standards are set for a balanced, human-centred digital evolution.”

AI’s Impact on Global Telecom Industry

The study reveals that the total time saved if AI was used across the telecom industry, referred to as the additional productive capacity, could equate to $33 billion in yearly wages. Variations from country to country arise from differences in the occupational mix between economies, suggesting that some countries could naturally benefit more from AI than others. The report also finds that larger economies – such as the U.S., UK and Germany – can adopt and benefit from AI at a faster pace because of a higher proportion of roles in network-dependent occupations such as the service sector.

The report differentiates between productivity and efficiency, recognising that while AI may not directly increase output or reduce costs – the traditional measures of productivity – it could enhance efficiency by enabling faster completion of tasks and improved customer satisfaction. However, the report notes that even though time-savings may be possible in most roles, some may struggle more than others to adopt AI. This “adoption potential” means that barriers such as poor digital skills in the workforce, or a lack of business buy-in, can reduce the beneficial impact of the technology.

Telecom unlocking AI; AI elevating Telecom

As well as looking at the critical role the telecom industry will play in making such efficiency and productivity gains a reality, the report also sets out how AI can boost the efficiency of employees working within the industry itself.

It finds that AI has the potential to transform the telecom industry by enhancing network operations, bolstering security, elevating customer service and streamlining back-office processes. AI algorithms, for example, can be used to analyse network traffic patterns, helping to predict congestion and other issues, so that network managers and operations teams can reduce network downtime.

Building on established approaches for assessing the impact of AI, EY’s analysis also indexes which occupations within the telecom industry could most benefit from AI, revealing that the biggest gains are seen in day-to-day tasks in management and administrative roles, HR and finance. Engineering and technology roles are also major beneficiaries, with AI helping in day-to-day network operations as well as in R&D efforts and bug-fixing. Other significant gains can also be achieved in sales and customer-service roles, such as call-centre operatives and sales managers. In total, the research suggests that 71% of jobs in the telecom industry could benefit from being augmented by AI.