This year has seen an unprecedented rise in interest and use of artificial intelligence (“AI”). From creating AI images to completing homework assignments, humans are engaging with AI like never before. While it might be tempting to view AI as a fad, its immense potential for harnessing and analyzing vast amounts of data gives this new technology real staying power.

Taking their lead from the White House, which released a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights this summer,1 regulatory agencies such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are evaluating how AI can be responsibly used. Earlier this year, NTIA sought comment on strategies to encourage accountability and promote trustworthy AI, receiving over 1,400 comments.2 The FCC also is getting involved, co-hosting with the National Science Foundation a workshop for network operators and vendors to meet with agencies and public interest stakeholders to discuss, among other topics, how AI can assist in spectrum management, network resiliency and optimization, and improvements to spectrum policy.3 As use cases expand and policymakers consider regulation, now is the time for mobile carriers to consider how to leverage the technology and position themselves to advocate for rules that further, rather than stymy, this emerging industry.

As discussed in the Hogan Lovells Global AI Trends Guide, AI has the power to transform every industry, including the telecommunications industry.4 AI both will rely on wireless networks and has the potential to improve them. Many AI applications may require real-time, high volume, reliable data transmission at lightning-fast speeds. Wireless carriers should proactively assess their network coverage, capacity, latency, and spectrum portfolios to ensure that they are poised to support the demands of AI applications. If additional spectrum at certain bandwidths will be necessary for this purpose, mobile carriers should start engaging with the FCC on how to make this spectrum available with the appropriate technical and operating rules for robust AI commercialization.

AI also holds the potential for numerous beneficial use cases in the wireless sector. AI deployment in the wireless context can unlock new possibilities and help solve the industry’s toughest challenges. For example, AI could be used by operators to:

  • Improve network modeling and aid in capacity planning and deployment decisions;

  • Optimize network traffic;

  • Bolster network resiliency through predictive tools, real-time monitoring, and automation of response functions;

  • Facilitate spectrum sharing;

  • Combat robocalls and robotexts;

  • Synthesize data to improve business processes; and

  • Provide faster customer service via AI assistants and automated troubleshooting.

Next steps

AI is a disruptive force and a catalyst for change that will impact sectors across society — including the mobile telecommunications landscape. Mobile carriers would be wise to consider shaping AI policy at this juncture, before regulatory approaches are pursued that may limit AI’s potential or preclude valuable use cases. Now is also the time to consider risk and liability issues associated with using AI technologies, and ensuring that your legal counsel is up to date on this emerging area. The wireless industry should explore how it can leverage AI and engage with other stakeholders in the regulatory conversation to ensure that the proper balance is struck between responsible policy and robust innovation.

This article was first published in the CCA Voice, Fall/Winter 2023 edition.