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Bell Seeks Regulator Approval for AI-Based Call Block Trial

Zacks Equity Research

Bell Canada, the wholly-owned subsidiary of BCE Inc. BCE, is seeking the approval of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) for a trial of AI-based technology that reportedly blocks more fraudulent telephone calls than the carrier is currently capable of. The approval from the regulatory agency is likely to strengthen the market position of the Canadian telecommunications firm and enable it to thwart the growing menace of unwanted spam calls.

The trial application is in tune with CRTC’s earlier mandate that required all Canadian telecom service providers to implement call-blocking technology by Dec 17, 2019. As part of this policy, Bell Canada has employed a network-level call-blocking technology that empowers it to prevent about 220 million spurious calls per month. The company now aims to take this initiative to the next higher level by utilizing an AI-based technology that would reportedly enable it to block additional 120 million fraudulent calls from reaching customers.

The enhanced call-block system will leverage a pre-defined set of typical call characteristics and proprietary algorithms to analyze and identify scam calls. In order to ensure that only spurious calls are prevented, the system follows a secondary checking process by cross-referencing with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre — the central agency that collects information and maintains database for fraud complaints.

Bell Canada operates BCE’s wireline (Bell Wireline) and wireless (Bell Wireless) businesses. The company continues to face near-term headwinds that limit its growth potential. The price cap rules introduced by the Canadian regulators are limiting rate increase and reducing the amount that incumbent carriers can charge competitors for accessing their network. As BCE attempts to offset inter-carrier price caps by raising fees of its end users, market dynamics and dictating elasticity have reduced overall demand as customers switch to lower-priced carriers. Moreover, the company’s local line access for traditional telephony service continues to face a decline among large customers due to higher wireless substitution and migration to IP-based services. This is reflected by persistent erosion in overall network access services on a year-over-year basis, hurting revenues of local and long-distance operations.

Nevertheless, BCE is likely to benefit from robust activities in the wireless business, strong subscriber additions, fall in churn rates and its focus on technology upgrades. The company continues to focus on six strategic areas — investment in broadband network and services, accelerating wireless services, leveraging wireline momentum, expanding media coverage, improving customer service and achieving a competitive cost structure. These initiatives are expected to generate higher revenue per user and attract new customers.

The stock has gained 13% in the past year against the industry’s fall of 29%.

BCE currently has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Some better-ranked stocks in the industry are Deutsche Telekom AG DTEGY, Telefonica Brasil S.A. VIV and Telefonica SA TEF, each carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks Rank #1(Strong Buy)stocks here.

Deutsche Telekom has long-term earnings growth expectation of 13.3%.

Telefonica Brasil has long-term earnings growth expectation of 8.6%.

Telefonica SA has long-term earnings growth expectation of 9.2%.

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