UK telecoms giant BT plans to slash 55,000 jobs, with 10,000 being replaced by AI 'by the end of the decade'

The announcement comes shortly after IBM announced it would replace 7,800 jobs with AI.
Sejal Sharma
The iconic BT Tower in London
The iconic BT Tower in London

After IBM’s CEO, earlier this month, announced that the company could easily replace at least 7,800 human personnel with artificial intelligence (AI) over the next five years, another startling announcement in the ‘Will AI replace humans’ debate has come to the fore.

BT, a prominent British multinational telecommunications firm, said it will become a ‘leaner business’ as it announced its plans to shed up to 55,000 jobs by the end of the decade, mostly in the United Kingdom. The company also announced that approximately 10,000 of its workforce will be replaced by AI, said a report by The Guardian.

The company has about 130,000 people on its payroll globally and approximately a fifth of the job cuts will be in customer services. 

The move comes as the company readies to roll out its next-gen full-fibre and 5G networks across the UK. Which would mean that by the end of the decade, BT would need fewer engineers on its payroll.

“For a company like BT there is a huge opportunity to use AI to be more efficient,” said Philip Jansen, the BT chief executive.

“There is a sort of 10,000 reduction from that sort of automated digitisation, we will be a huge beneficiary of AI. I believe generative AI is a huge leap forward; yes, we have to be careful, but it is a massive change.”

Announcing its financial results for the year, BT group said that its full-fibre broadband services had reached 10.3 million households and businesses, and they have been able to reach 68% of the UK population through 5G.

The news isn’t exactly surprising

There have been major tech layoffs happening around the globe. Google's parent Alphabet cut 6% of its workforce in January, about 12,000 jobs, as it faces "a different economic reality” and doubled down on AI.

Companies like LinkedIn, Meta, Amazon and Microsoft have also had massive layoffs in the past six months.

In fact, in a recent report by Goldman Sachs, it was revealed that 300 million full-time jobs will be lost to automation. “The recent emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) raises whether we are on the brink of a rapid acceleration in task automation that will drive labor cost savings and raise productivity,” said the report.

Interesting Engineering had earlier reported that a study conducted by OpenAI, in partnership with Open Research, found that implementation of large language models (LLMs) like GPT could affect as much as 80 percent of the workforce in the U.S and European countries.

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