AT&T Believes AI is Transformational for the Company

In a tight market, this telecom titan says AI is the difference maker.

Telecommunications giant AT&T is having a rough 2023.

The company’s share price is down -9.3% (although with a dividend yield of 6.64%, it is one of the better income-producing stocks in the market). Its long-haul market share price track record is even worse – T shares are down 36% over the past 10 years, not including those dividends. Compare that to the 152.9% 10-year performance gains by the S&P 500.

The company is having some issues getting its 5G network running speedily and seamlessly, and like other high-profile telecom firms, it’s operating in a highly competitive wireless market where room for growth is highly limited.

All that said. AT&T believes it has an inside edge on the competition.

The company is one of the first to launch an actual Generative AI product, rolling out its Ask AT&T platform in June, 2023, which is reportedly widely used by 68,000 company employees for routine tasks like customer service, data tracking, and meeting management.

Company execs believe Ask ATT is just the tip of the iceberg as 2024 beckons.

“We’re not anywhere close to hitting the barrier of what’s possible here,” said Andy Markus ATT’s chief data officer for AT&T, in comments to Mobile World Live this week. “Things are moving fast, but in the telco space I think we’re moving faster than most.”

AI ROI a Hit for AT&T

While ATT is also using AI and machine learning for more efficient and faster data automation across the company, the company says it’s yielding big gains already from its Gen AI tools.

“Generative AI just allows us to do more in a way that a human would, and not in the way a machine would,” Markus noted in the interview.

As an example, Markus says AT&T is building its own internal “ask data” application that digs deeper into data to produce more robust internal operational results.

Now, human staffers can better interrogate their data “with human language being the new computer language,” Markus says. “(We want the AI tool) to tell me the reasons why that forecast might be wrong or right. It’s taking the coding component, the ability to logic and reason, and applying that to data.”
“It really can supercharge that subject matter expert in the business,” he adds. “(Employees) know their business, but they may not be great coders, and they might not have a data scientist by their side.”

AT&T also says it’s laying down strict guardrails on its Gen AI platform, with human intervention tracking the technology at every usage step.

Generative AI tools are great and getting better quickly, but they’re not magic or infallible,” AT&T said in a statement. “Ask AT&T users are responsible for checking that the results are accurate and appropriate.”

“We also have to be on the watch for external misuse of Generative AI,” the company notes. “We know that hackers and fraudsters will try to use the functionality with bad intentions, so we have AI and Generative AI counter-measures that are central to our cybersecurity initiatives, helping us identify threats – including AI-created attacks – before they impact our company or our customers.”

So far, so good, as AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches notes that the company’s AI implementations have saved the company “hundreds of millions of dollars” – and that was only halfway through 2023.

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