Generative AI sparks telco industry debate
Telefonica’s Chairman & CEO, José María Álvarez-Pallete, has become the first CEO of a major telco to publicly sound the alarm on generative AI (GenAI), declaring that “a runaway or power-hungry GenAI is an existential risk.”
Governments are already debating how fast society should move with generative AI and who controls the speed. Italy, for example, has applied the brake and banned the use of Chat GPT. The EU meanwhile is currentlyexamining a new legal framework for AI, which seeks to classify and regulate AI usage according to the level of risk it poses.
Telefonica’s intervention begs the questions of how much sway communications service providers (CSPs) will have over the debate, and to what extent regulation will impact their businesses.
Álvarez-Pallete suggests telecoms infrastructure has helped facilitate the development of generative AI: “Just when it seemed that telecommunications networks would be a limitation to the explosion of data generated on a daily basis, fiber and 5G networks emerged, and once deployed, they evolved and ceased to be telecommunications networks and became supercomputers present in every corner of the world.” Whatever the role of telecom infrastructure in generative AI, regulation that protects consumers could affect the sort of business models and partnerships CSPs can develop in new fields, such as the metaverse.
In the meantime, whether telcos see themselves primarily as techcos or as connectivity providers, they will need to start thinking about their use of generative AI from a data governance perspective.
Press reports, for example, claim Samsung staff accidentally leaked proprietary information by feeding it into ChatGPT queries. As a result, Michael Weening, CEO of the telco software company, Calix, has banned the use of ChatGPT across all its business functions and devices, stating in a LinkedIn post: “It is a learning engine therefore everything that goes into it becomes part of the learning models – which is why they lay claim to everything for it to work. IP, customer data, or other confidential internal items become part of residual knowledge rights. Writing an internal memo that is confidential – how would you like that to be publicly available? A customer contract that is under NDA... openly available …Not a chance.”
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