Artificial Intelligence To Replace 55,000 Telecom Jobs

The British telecoms operator BT is set to eliminate up to 55,000 jobs by the end of the decade, primarily in the UK, as part of cost-cutting measures. The job losses, which will equate to almost half (42%) of BT’s entire workforce, are set to include both full-time employees and third-party contractors. 

Up to a fifth of those cuts will come in customer services as staff are replaced by technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI). The company has been preparing a transformation program to build a national fibre network as well as rolling out high-speed 5G mobile services.

BT announced its plans to axe up to 40% of its workforce by 2030 as it looks to become a “leaner business” and rely more heavily on digitisation and AI to cut costs it has said. The headcount reduction from the current workforce of 130,000 includes staff and contractors. Around 10,000 jobs will disappear as a result of automation and improvements to its digital channel, with customers expected to rely more on online self-service.

The CEO of BT, Philip Jansen, said that after completing the fibre roll-out, adopting AI and simplifying its structure, BT would rely on a much smaller workforce and a significantly reduced cost base by the end of the 2020s.

BT currently employs around 130,000 people worldwide, around 80,000 of whom are UK-based, but will seek to reduce this to between 75,000-90,000 worldwide between 2028-30. The job cuts align with the industry trend, as mobile operator Vodafone recently announced its plans to eliminate 11,000 jobs over the next three years. 

Both telecoms companies have emphasised the need to adapt to evolving technologies and improve operational efficiency. 

Prospect, the union that represents thousands of BT managers, expressed concern at the size of the cuts planned over the next seven years. “Prospect are deeply concerned by the scale of these cuts,” the Prospect national secretary, John Ferrett, said.  “Announcing such a huge reduction in this way will be very unsettling for workers who did so much to keep the country connected during the pandemic."

BT’s strategy to reduce its workforce aims to secure long-term sustainability while delivering promised cost savings to unhappy investors. The most recent financial results reported revenue of £20.7 billion ($25.75 billion) down 1% year-on-year and profit down 12% across the same period due to “increased depreciation from network build and specific items”. 

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