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Swiss operator Swisscom has partnered with Nvidia as it looks to beef up its position as an AI player.
January 17, 2024
Swisscom announced the deal with Nvidia at AI House Davos – part of the World Economic Forum’s annual talking shop. It will involve building out generative AI full-stack supercomputers based on Nvidia accelerators and AI software in Switzerland and Italy. The goal of this is so that it can develop standard, tailor-made and new AI use cases for customers and for internal use.
The deal also includes the establishment of something called a ‘Trusted AI Factory’ which will tap into Nvidia’s global ecosystem for Swiss customers. In all, Swisscom Group plans to invest up to 100 million Swiss Francs into the endeavours.
“Working with Nvidia enables us to act as a bridge-builder between the possibilities of technology and the needs of customers,” said Christoph Aeschlimann, Swisscom CEO. “As a first step, we are building a high-performance infrastructure upon which we will create trustworthy services. We have been in close contact with many customers to consult them on their specific needs.”
Keith Strier, Vice President of Worldwide AI Initiatives at Nvidia added: “Telcos are increasingly seen as leaders in building, hosting and deploying sovereign AI. Having a trusted, high-performance infrastructure is becoming critical to every nation’s technological advancement. Building on Nvidia’s full-stack accelerated computing platform for streamlining the development and deployment of production-grade AI applications Swisscom can enable leading, real-world AI solutions to Swiss companies, driving the transformation of the country’s economy.”
In terms of why a firm would want to go to a telco like Swiscomm for its AI needs as opposed to one of the big players, it says within publicly available generative AI services the methods of data handling can often be ‘intransparent’ and difficult for companies to comprehend.
“Everyone talks about generative AI, but the gap between expectations and reality is tremendous,” continued Aeschlimann. “A customer must be sure what happens with its data, where it happens and how it happens. Switzerland, with its many multinational organizations, needs trusted and unique sovereign building blocks for AI. That is where we step in. We are developing it in a reliable and secure manner, with a distinct Swiss flavour, hand in hand with NVIDIA.”
Swisscom will also become a reseller of Nvidia products, including the Nvidia DGX platform and Nvidia GPUs as part of the deal.
Last December Swisscom’s Italian subsidiary Fastweb announced the purchase of 31 Nvidia DGX H100 systems, which it says is the first large-scale Nvidia DGX AI-powered supercomputer in Italy for the development of a national AI system. This cluster will be made available in the cloud as a infrastructure-as-a-service, and will deploy ‘the first large language model natively trained in the Italian language.’
Elsewhere at Davos this week, the Chairman and CEO of Telefónica, José María Álvarez-Pallete gave a speech in which he pressed the need for European corporate competitiveness, and for the European Union to rethink competition and regulation policies to boost prosperity.
"Europe must have its own agenda, it is time to accelerate and define where we want to be in the next 10 years," he said, adding “The only thing we are asking is that they deregulate us and let us compete", he stressed. "They are regulating us with analogic rules from the last century, but we are in a new digital economy, and we are playing on unequal terms."
Álvarez-Pallete also noted that Europe is lagging China and the United States, saying that "of the 50 largest ICT companies in the world by market capitalization, only five are European" and that they represent less than 5% of the total value.
It’s a fair point, and while regulation probably plays a role in it all, there will be myriad other factors that have propelled firms in Silicon Valley and Shenzhen to become as large and successful as they are.
Producing some home grown competitors to the dominating, and in some sectors duopolistic if not outright monopolistic, big tech landscape is a laudable aim – and we often get a bit of that grandstanding chat in the UK too when pots of government cash are being sprinkled around on start-ups.
But cutting through the rhetoric presumably what is being alluded to here is setting up the conditions so that a European Intel, Google or OpenAI can emerge and thrive, or that the manufacturing grunt of China can replicated in Bavaria. It’s a great thing to talk about at a stage like Davos or at an EU press conference, but to actually go away and make it happen is a massive ask, and would require an equally massive plan.
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