Vodafone using Google’s cloud and AI to retain customers

Vodafone is teaming up with Google to develop a cloud-based knowledge platform to assist telcos discover new alternatives and enhance relationships with customers.

Numerous research have discovered that telcos are more and more struggling to discover new income streams, regardless of investing closely into 4G and 5G networks.

The partnership is the most recent development displaying a convergence between the telecoms market and Silicon Valley.

But there are considerations over the place on this planet buyer knowledge is processed.

The deal is about to final for six years and will contain a collaboration of up to 1,000 workers from each cellular operator Vodafone and tech big Google, positioned within the US, Spain and the UK.

The concept is to assist Vodafone create and deploy new digital companies concurrently in a number of nations for each customers and enterprise customers, in addition to to acquire new insights from buyer knowledge to enhance relationships and enhance buyer retention.

If the platform is successful, it will be an additional enhance for the general public cloud computing market, which is projected to develop by 23.1% to $332.3bn (£239.3bn) in 2021, in accordance to analysis agency Gartner.

“Telcos are investing an insane amount of money into network equipment and spectrum licences for 4G and 5G, but they are struggling with profitability to get returns on their investments, because the investments are extremely high,” Leif-Olof Wallin, a analysis vp at Gartner informed the BBC.

“They need to operate more efficiently to reduce costs, which is why they’re using public cloud services.”

Automating customer support

Gartner analysis exhibits that customers are a lot happier after they can improve to a brand new cellphone, change contracts or add companies to current agreements immediately by themselves, with out having to wait on maintain and communicate to customer support workers in name centres.

According to Mr Wallin, it’s far more costly to strive to purchase new cellular subscriber customers, than it’s to hold current customers pleased and tweak their companies as time goes on.

He says Vodafone has lengthy had an ambition of having the ability to ultimately automate not less than 50% of all adjustments or upgrades to current contracts and agreements.

As a part of these efforts, the cellular operator launched a “friendly” synthetic intelligence-powered digital assistant chatbot app referred to as TOBi in 2017.

Consumers obtain the app and ask TOBi questions. The app, powered by IBM Watson synthetic intelligence (AI), is ready to immediately entry details about widespread matters like worldwide roaming or accessing 5G, and it could additionally pull up buyer information to assist customers with an issue.

The cellular operator additionally has an current cope with Amazon Web Services (AWS), to convey enterprise purposes and computing energy nearer to the place the information is positioned, using the cloud and 5G cellular web – an idea referred to as “edge computing”.

The Google deal is supposed to increase on this idea of automating customer support, in addition to dashing up the worldwide supply of client and enterprise companies.

Vodafone says it has up to now recognized 700 use circumstances the place it believes having an information platform would come in useful. It says the advantages would come with decreasing prices by simplifying and centralising its operations.

“This is an important announcement which highlights the level of technology transformation happening in telecoms which is perhaps more dramatic than in any other industry at the moment,” mentioned Nick McQuire, chief of analysis at consultancy CCS Insight.

“With the changes brought on by the pandemic, along with the transition to 5G and the cloud happening across the sector, operators are getting aggressive in turning to data analytics and machine learning to help them drive improvements to operations, and above all, improve the customer experience.”

But the place does the information go?

However, there are considerations over how buyer knowledge will probably be transmitted from Vodafone to Google, and every other companions.

In March, Spain’s data protection authority AEPD fined Vodafone €8.15m for violating a number of GDPR knowledge safety legal guidelines, together with Article 44, which forbids the switch of private knowledge to nations that aren’t throughout the European Economic Area, or to nations with legislations not in accordance with GDPR.

And in July, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that it is illegal to share personal data with US cloud providers, due to considerations over “invasive US surveillance programmes”.

“This is clearly a big deal for both Vodafone and Google. However, it appears to ignore the Schrems 2 decision, based on the GDPR, that governs data transfers between the EU and the US,” unbiased telecoms analyst Ian Grant informed the BBC.

“Firms active in the EU, such as Vodafone, may not use cloud services provided by US-based firms, as US law allows US government agencies, such as the NSA, to request and get data on anyone whose data is processed on US-owned clouds anywhere in the world.”

Google says Mr Grant’s view that it’s “illegal” to share knowledge with US cloud suppliers is inaccurate.

However others agree, similar to Anja Hoffmann, a lawyer and coverage analyst for German think-tank the Centre for European Policy (CEP), who told German newspaper Handelsblatt that “data transfers from companies in the EU to cloud services in the US such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google or Dropbox are illegal if the data recipients there are subject to US surveillance laws and have access to the data content in plain text”.

The sharing of private knowledge between the EU, Switzerland and the US was beforehand ruled by a framework often called Privacy Shield, which was designed by the European Commission.

Other nations can solely transmit private knowledge with the EU if they’ve knowledge safety legal guidelines in place that the European Commission considers to be sufficient.

But the Schrems 2 resolution in July invalidates the Privacy Shield framework. However, the framework itself will not be necessary and firms have to resolve whether or not they need to choose in.

Either means, no new laws or deviations from GDPR have yet been agreed by the UK.

So whereas there is probably not a legislation in place governing how private knowledge is at present being transmitted between US cloud suppliers and the UK – even when the information centre is in Europe – Mr Grant says this might be “unquestionably risky”.

Vodafone informed the BBC in response: “We have strict intra-company contractual provisions in place that ensure data flows between the EU and the UK are lawful.

“In addition, each knowledge feed that’s certain for Google Cloud platform is catalogued in Vodafone’s specialist platform with specific deal with managing delicate metadata and making certain adherence to all insurance policies.”

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