[MWC 24] SK Telecom to establish joint venture with global telecom companies for large language model project

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : February 27, 2024, 14:26 Updated : February 28, 2024, 12:49
Courtesy of SK Telecom
[Courtesy of SK Telecom]

BARCELONA -- South Korea's major mobile carrier SK Telecom agreed with four global telecom companies -- Germany's Deutsche Telekom, United Arab Emirates-based e&, Singapore's Singtel, and Japan's SoftBank -- to set up a joint venture targeting the artificial intelligence market. The joint venture aims to develop a multilingual large language model, a deep learning-based artificial intelligence algorithm that understands, summarizes, and generates content in different languages.

The AI language model could significantly help the South Korean mobile carrier compete with United States-based technology firms such as OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft. One of the most widely used large language model (LLM)-based chatbot services is OpenAI's ChatGPT. While an LLM is normally based on about one billion parameters, ChatGPT is known to have more than 100 billion parameters. Parameters are the numerical values that determine how a model behaves and functions.

SK Telecom (SKT) said SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won reached a consensus with entrepreneurs from the four telecom companies to establish a joint venture by the end of 2024. Starting with Korean, English, Japanese, German, and Arabic, the joint venture will develop a multilingual LLM that supports many different languages. While it is easier for English language-based LLM users to gain access to parameters for machine learning, obtaining parameters can be more challenging for non-English speakers working with other languages due to the typically smaller number of available datasets.

By establishing the joint venture, SKT, which currently has some 31 million subscribers, can secure about 1.3 billion clients worldwide. Deutsche Telekom has more than 250 million subscribers in Europe and the U.S. e& provides telecommunications services to more than 170 million people in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Singtel has over 770 million subscribers in Australia, India, and Indonesia, and SoftBank has around 40 million subscribers in Japan.

"Our ultimate goal is to discover new business models by redefining relationships with customers," SKT CEO Ryu Young-sang said in a statement on February 26. The company also hopes to cooperate with the four partners to establish joint principles and systems during the development of novel AI technologies. 

The agreement was made during the Mobile World Congress, an annual mobile device exhibition held in Barcelona. A total of 165 South Korean companies, including Samsung Electronics, are showcasing AI and high-tech solutions at the MWC 2024. Meanwhile, Samsung developed a new 36-gigabyte dynamic random-access memory chip "HBM3E 12H" that can significantly help system manufacturers to advance AI-driven data analytics.  
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