Under the deal, both companies aim to develop innovative services for the telecom sector

BARCELONA — Telefónica and Microsoft have put in place a strategic partnership to collaborate on projects to accelerate innovation in the telecommunications field.

The new agreement, announced during the Mobile World Congress 2019, will combine Telefónica’s networks with the Microsoft Azure AI platform to design services that the telco will offer in the future. Telefónica already uses Microsoft’s AI-based Aura digital assistant in channels including mobile apps, its pay-TV service and its Brazilian call centers.

“Telefónica has been a leader in using AI to transform customer engagement, and the strategic partnership builds on this history of innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “Together, we will apply the power of Azure and Azure AI to create new, innovative experiences for millions of Telefónica customers around the world and shape the future of Telefónica’s network.”

José María Álvarez-Pallete, chairman and CEO of Telefónica, said that the operator is “applying cutting-edge technology to its ongoing transformation. Specifically, we are already using AI to enhance our customer relationships and are really excited to work with Microsoft to further harness the power of Azure AI. This agreement strengthens our relationship and our common belief that AI technology and the use of data should be based on solid ethical principles and empower people to control their digital lives.”

Under the agreement, both companies will expand the use of Azure Cognitive Services from Aura’s current use, to include other types of customer engagement and business processes, to “create new AI-powered, in-home experiences for customers and explore the use of intelligent technologies to transform the network.”

With Aura already being used to control some Telefónica services, the two companies will evaluate developing Telefónica’s “Home as a Computer” strategy to include Microsoft Cognitive Services and Azure AI services with other Telefónica services — an “ecosystem of Aura Living apps” designed to run on all Telefónica devices at home and allow customers to interact with their devices to do daily activities.

Also, Microsoft and Telefónica will explore working together to “identify opportunities using AI and  technologies like blockchain, 5G and edge computing to transform services,” the companies said, adding that they will “collaborate through the creation of a joint working team to explore how AI and machine learning can be applied to optimize its network.”

During his keynote speech at Mobile World Congress, Álvarez-Pallete called for a refreshed and bold regulatory framework ahead of the deployment of 5G networks that will require telcos to invest heavily.

The executive also highlighted that telecoms is the most deflationary sector in Europe and urged governments to rationally allocate spectrum and to award it for longer durations. He also hoped that the new commission and parliament in the European UnionEU and the new governments elected make the creation of a level playing field their number one priority.


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