Like many firms at MWC 2024, SK Telecom was going in hard on AI at its stand. At the show, the operator talked us through its plan to build ‘Personal AI Assistants’ and the ‘AI of things’.

Andrew Wooden

March 4, 2024

3 Min Read
SK Telecom

If there was one theme to pluck out of the bustling metropolis of a trade show that was MWC 2024, it was AI. Most of the firms we spoke had it high up in their messaging list, though obviously they are approaching it in a many different ways.

While there’s clearly an element of leaning into what’s in vogue at the present moment, it’s not always clear what role telcos will actually play in whatever market sector generative AI coalesces into.

One operator who has been particular bullish on its plans to attack the space is SK Telecom. We sat down with Lee Jong-min, SKT’s VP and Head of Future R&D to ask about what they have in the works and why the telecoms sector as a whole is relevant to the future development of AI.  

“In the future I believe that telco companies will move beyond the connectivity where intelligence will be embedded into devices. So we are going to provide AI based services and technologies in the future. In the in the past all the devices had connectivity… centred around IoT… but in the future there will be [a] transformation into the AI of Things where AI will be embedded into devices.”

While there’s no denying the intense hype around Ai that has risen several hundred octaves since Chat GPT smashed on to the scene in 2022, what’s not always so obvious is how integral the telecoms sector will be to its development, as firms like SK Telecom clearly want to be. When asked how telcos can position themselves at the centre of the AI boom, as opposed to it being dominated by the wider world of big tech, Jong-min said:

“Further development of AI services and for [the] evolution of AI I believe that there will be three prerequisites. So first of all, we have to be able to have the communication network so that we can collect the data, and with that data we need to train the model with the quality data, that will be the first prerequisite. [The] second prerequisite is based on data collection, we need to have the data centre so that we can process and store the data.

“And thirdly, we have to have the computation and memory system so that we can do the learning and inference system for the training of the model. For SKT we are an affiliate of the SK Group and we can work together with our SK Hynix and SK Broadband. So based on that I believe that we already have the necessary technologies for AI because we have other affiliates under the SK umbrella. So I believe at this moment, we are getting a lot of approaches from other big tech companies around the world. So I strongly believe that in the era of AI we already have highest competitiveness to be the leader in AI.”

As well as building out dedicated data centres for Ai purposes, SK’s longer-term plans involve the development of PAAs – or personal AI Assistants.

“We prepared something that is necessary for the era of AI… [the] AI data centre… AI data centre is [an] area [which] telcos are really good at traditionally, that would be our legacy system. And that will be the bottom layer of our AI. So there will be the AI data centre and based on [it], we can provide our core services that include PAA - Personal AI Assistants. These days everyone is carrying smartphones. So likewise, I believe that everyone will have their own PAAs. So we will work on that AI data centre and PAA at the same time, that will be our strategy in the future.”

SK Telecom’s particular corporate set up within a wider tech organisation perhaps gives it some additional levers to pull, a situation which might not be precisely replicated within the rest of the operator ecosystem. However Jong-min believes that it’s the presence of data centres that can help telcos pivot into AI – and this is a sentiment echoed by Nvidia during our interview at MWC last week.

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MWC 2024

About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins Telecoms.com on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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