The 20 largest telcos with headquarters in Europe and North America slashed more than 63,000 jobs last year, and ten of them have cut nearly 21,000 roles in 2017, as companies automated operations and bolstered efficiency metrics.
The headcount reductions by the ten operators to have disclosed jobs data in 2017 represent more than 6% of their combined workforce in 2015, with cuts totaling almost 74,000 jobs at those companies since then. Between 2015 and 2016, the layoffs were accompanied by an increase of nearly 5% in the average figure for revenues per employee, which rose from about $448,000 to roughly $470,000 annually, using current exchange rates.
In some cases, the cuts and efficiency improvements were dramatic. US telco giant AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), for instance, cut 12,910 jobs last year and has so far this year slashed another 11,740 positions. In total, that equals about 8.8% of AT&T's workforce in 2015, when it acquired satellite company DirecTV.
AT&T has also witnessed one of the biggest leaps in revenues per employee, from about $522,000 in 2015 to $610,000 last year.
In other major findings:
Driven partly by merger and acquisition activity, staff reductions have happened as operators have discovered new ways of automating processes thanks to recent technological advances. Germany's Deutsche Telekom, for example, has recently outlined its vision of developing networks it can manage "with no human involvement" through a process of "brutal automation." Together with Spain's Telefónica, it has just launched a new working group within the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project that will look at using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve network management. (See DT: Brutal Automation Is Only Way to Succeed, Facebook's TIP to Launch AI Working Group and 'Brutal' Automation & the Looming Workforce Cull.)
AI is affecting other telco divisions, too. Vodafone UK, for instance, has been investing in so-called "chatbots" that eliminate the need for customer services staff during messaging-based interactions with subscribers. (See Chatbot Takes Charge: Vodafone's Customer Services Overhaul.)
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