Deutsche Telekom, e&, Singtel, SoftBank and SK Telecom are taking their AI relationship to the next level.

Nick Wood

February 26, 2024

3 Min Read

Having established the Global Telco AI Alliance last summer, this group of operators have announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) plans to formally establish it as a joint venture company that will develop, package up, and sell a large language model (LLMs) to the industry.

With OpenAI's ChatGPT making waves around the world, generative AI was a major talking point at last year's MWC. But February 2023 was a bit too early for most telcos to talk in great depth about how they planned to capitalise on all the excitement, just that they planned to find a way to do so, talking all the while about its revolutionary potential.

The intervening 12 months have given the industry plenty of time to wrap its collective head round the subject, and plans to leverage the technology for commercial gain are being implemented.

Launched last July by DT, e&, Singtel and SKT – and later joined by Softbank – the Global Telco AI Alliance bore some of the hallmarks of industry associations that are well intentioned, highly ambitious, but fall by the wayside. It is worth asking, for instance, why members of this group would contribute to the training of an LLM for countries in which they don't operate.

This MWC announcement shows they clearly do consider this to be worth their while.

"The Global Telco AI Alliance brings synergy to its members by allowing them to achieve more by working as a team," said SKT chief executive Ryu Young-sang.

The group is focusing its AI efforts on a telco-specific LLM that will underpin a new breed of advanced customer service chatbots.

"This promises to be a game changer not just for us at Singtel but for any telecom company out there looking to lift their customer experience beyond limited automated responses and generic chatbot interactions," said Yuen Kuan Moon, group CEO of Singtel.

"This multilingual LLM tailored for telcos will greatly expand chatbot capabilities with relevant responses to customers' technical queries, freeing up service agents to deal with more complex customer issues and we intend to deploy this across the Singtel group," he continued. "With leading telcos from three different continents working on this innovative model, this unprecedented effort to scale AI development for the telecom industry would not have been possible had we all decided to go it alone."

DT said the LLM is already being trained on anonymised customer interaction data, enabling it to cope with technical questions relating to, for example, specific models of Wi-Fi router.

"By integrating telco-specific large language models, our 'Frag Magenta' chatbot becomes even more human-centric: AI personalises conversations between customers and chatbots. And our joint venture brings Europe and Asia closer together," said Claudia Nemat, DT board member for technology and innovation.

Details on ownership, leadership and approximate enterprise value are all under wraps for now. However, considering that the participating operators collectively boast 1.3 billion customers across 50 countries, this JV – due to launch later this year – has the makings of a sizeable operation.

Read more about:

MWC 2024

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

You May Also Like