We sat down with Nvidia at MWC 2024 to talk about the potential leading role telcos can play in generative AI, which it says could finally help them recoup the costs of deploying 5G.

Andrew Wooden

February 27, 2024

3 Min Read

There were a raft of Nvidia announcements coming out of MWC this year, including partnerships with ARM, ServiceNow, and SoftBank, the launch of the AI-RAN Alliance, as well as a big deal with Telenor that will grant it access to the latest Nvidia hardware and AI enterprise software to support a number of AI use cases across its operations.

Amidst this flurry of updates, we caught up with Nvidia’s global head of business development for telco Chris Penrose to talk about the wider relationship between the telco industry and the emergence of generative AI.

When asked what the biggest problem facing the telecoms sector is, he said:

“I would say that, right now, there have been significant investments that have happened in 5G, but that hasn't necessarily translated into a significant lift in the revenues that telcos have been able to achieve. And they really are needing to find ways to ensure that they're getting that return on the investment. There was a lot of early on excitement about what will be the killer app for unlocking that value, and what I would say is that I think we're actually at an interesting point now because I believe that generative AI has the potential to be that killer app, and that's just coming on the scene.

“Because every single application that exists will have generative AI as part of its user interface going forward. And this really is now an opportunity, whether you're bringing Infrastructure as a Service, you're bringing Training as a Service, Inferencing as a Service or even AI applications, this is a whole new opportunity powered by generative AI that the telcos can really lean into and hopefully tap and get some additional revenues to make it to pay for that investment and leverage that 5G infrastructure in a way that we all want it to be leveraged.”

While many telcos clearly have ambitions to in some way shape or form play a role in the much talked about generative AI sector, it’s not necessarily a given they’ll be at the core of the action, the centre of gravity currently existing within big tech firms like Google and Microsoft. To this point, Penrose says:

“We are seeing many telcos begin to lean forward, because this is the next big wave of technology. And many societies and countries are saying what should be the right infrastructure that we need for our country to drive the AI agenda? And this is something we call creating AI factories or creating sovereign AI clouds in these countries.

“You're starting to see more and more telcos really thinking about how do I actually begin to play in that space? A couple of things the telcos have; they typically have data centres themselves, a lot of them are not as full of data centres anymore, you know, but they've got an opportunity to say I've got access to space and power, which is really one of the big things you need here, and I know how to run big infrastructure programs.

This is a very specific type of build you need to do to really unlock generative AI. in order for it to achieve performance, you need the ability to stitch together hundreds or thousands of GPUs to be able to do training on so the largest models, and that's doesn't necessarily look like a standard deployment. So we really are encouraging them to lean in. It's a decision that telcos have to make, they have to say that they want to be on that journey. But they’ve got a lot of things, they’ve got relationships with governments, they've got relationships with business customers, they're a trusted partner in their countries. Can they lean in and actually be on the front side of this wave?”

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MWC 2024

About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins Telecoms.com on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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