Global Telco AI Alliance to progress generative AI for telcos

  • Four major global telcos joined forces to launch the Global Telco AI Alliance to accelerate AI transformation of the existing telco business and create new business opportunities with AI services.
  • They signed a Multilateral MOU for cooperation in the AI business, which includes the co-development of the Telco AI Platform.

Deutsche Telekom, e&, Singtel and SK Telecom have established a new industry group that aims to progress generative AI.  Called the Global Telco AI Alliance, it represents a coordinated effort by these four operators to accelerate the AI-fuelled transformation of their businesses, and to develop new, AI-powered business models.

The Telco AI Platform will serve as the foundation both for new services – like chatbots and apps – as well as enhancements to existing telco services. The alliance members plan to establish a working group whose task will be to hammer out co-investment opportunities and the co-development of said platform.

Members will also support one another in operating AI services and apps in their respective markets, and cooperate to foster the growth of a telco AI-based ecosystem.

As of today, all the operators have done is sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU), under which they pledge to carry out all this work. A signing ceremony took place in Seoul, Korea, and was attended – either in person or virtually – by the CEOs of e&, Singtel and SK Telecom, and Deutsche Telekom’s board member for technology and innovation, Claudia Nemat.  The Global Telco AI Alliance will also have to ensure that any AI-based services they develop are capable of accounting for cultural differences. They won’t get very far if their virtual assistants make culturally insensitive recommendations, for example.

The seniority of these signatories represents a strong statement of intent though, and the group said it will discuss appointing C-level representatives from each member to the Alliance.

“In order to make the most of the possibilities of generative AI for our customers and our industry, we want to develop industry-specific applications in the Telco AI Alliance. I am particularly pleased that this alliance also stands for bridging the gap between Europe and Asia and that we are jointly pursuing an open-vendor approach. Depending on the application, we can use the best technology. The founding of this alliance is an important milestone for our industry,” said Claudia Nemat, Board Member Technology and Innovation at Deutsche Telekom.

“We recognize AI’s immense potential in reshaping the telecommunications landscape and beyond and are excited to embark on this transformative journey with the formation of the Global Telco AI Alliance. The alliance signifies a strategic commitment to driving innovation and fostering collaborative efforts. Our shared goal is to redefine industry paradigms, establish new growth drivers through AI-powered business models, and pave the way for a new era of strategic cooperation, guiding our industry towards an exciting and prosperous future,” said Khalifa Al Shamsi, CEO of e& life.

“This alliance will enable us and our ecosystem of partners to significantly expedite the development of new and innovative AI services that can bring tremendous benefits to both businesses and consumers. With our advanced 5G network, we are well-placed to leverage AI to ideate and co-create and are already using it to enhance our own customer service and employee experience, increase productivity and drive learning,” said Yuen Kuan Moon, Group Chief Executive Officer of Singtel.

It is not clear at this stage of proceedings whether the operators plan to develop their own in-house AI assets, or license them from the likes of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, or Google Bard. On the one hand, going with a third party that has done most of the legwork offers efficiencies, but on the other hand, the Global Telco AI Alliance might prefer an AI that specialises in telecoms, rather than a generalist.

Japanese vendor NEC showed earlier this month – with the launch of its own large language model (LLM) for enterprises in its home market – that generative AI isn’t necessarily the preserve of Silicon Valley big tech. It also highlighted the desire to develop localised AI for different languages.

The announcement also doesn’t attempt to grapple with any potential ethical pitfalls that might befall the Alliance. While it’s a fairly safe bet that responsible AI development will be an important consideration, it’s always better when companies make that clear.

Even big tech has come round to that way of thinking, with the launch earlier this week of the Frontier Model Forum. Established by Google, Microsoft, OpenAI and self-styled ethical AI company Anthropic, the group aims to advance the development of responsible artificial intelligence for the benefit of humanity.



3 thoughts on “Global Telco AI Alliance to progress generative AI for telcos

  1. SK Telecom, one of the telecom sector’s most ambitious AI players, says its new global alliance can help operators develop their own AI platforms and gain global AI leadership.

    The company announced the formation of the Global Telco AI Alliance with Singtel, Deutsche Telekom and e& two weeks ago.

    The initiative has high-level backing from the four members, with the launch attended by the CEOs of SK Telecom, DT and Singtel, and DT’s innovation and technology board member.

    The South Korean operator thinks telcos should band together on AI. (Source: Ryan Pikkel on Flickr CC2.0)
    The South Korean operator thinks telcos should band together on AI.
    (Source: Ryan Pikkel on Flickr CC2.0)
    SKT CFO Jinwon Kim said on an earnings call Tuesday that the alliance was aimed at building business collaboration in developing multilingual large language models (LLMs) “to gain AI leadership in the global market.”

    Jeong Seok-geun, head of global AI tech business for the Korean telco, said its experience in AI business and technology would help it lead the alliance to develop economies of scale in AI.

    He said LLMs were currently dominated by global tech giants, which means “telcos are struggling to secure LLM-related technology.”

    “SK Telecom has been making investments in AI for the past couple of years, so we believe that we can lead this particular alliance with global telcos so that we can gain economies of scale,” Jeong said.

    Telco AI platform

    “By doing so we can strengthen the negotiating power of the telcos as part of the alliance, and we can use our own LLM technology to build AI platforms where global telcos develop LLM technologies together.”

    Jeong said operators would first apply generative AI in their own processes such as marketing, network management and outsourcing.

    He also said that by banding together, telecom operators could avoid the mistakes of the past, where the industry had ceded strategic businesses to rivals during a major technology shift.

    “In preparation for this new era of generative AI we are taking action preemptively so that we can utilize AI for our business enhancement,” Jeong said.

    Jeong said SKT was in discussion with the other alliance members on joint investments and also planned to invite other telcos to join the group.

    SKT’s current AI-related business includes its A. chat service and its Ifland metaverse platform, which has clocked 4.2 million monthly active users, of which 30% are outside Korea.

    Despite the growth in its non-core businesses the company reported flat second-quarter revenue, earnings and operating income.

    Its best-performing segment was enterprise, which grew 9.2%, including a 68% increase in cloud revenue.

  2. August 14th UPDATE:

    Anthropic, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup co-founded by former OpenAI leaders, will receive $100 million in funding from one of the biggest mobile carriers in South Korea, SK Telecom (SKT), the Korean telco announced on Sunday.

    The funding news comes three months after Anthropic raised $450 million in its Series C funding round led by Spark Capital in May. Prior to the latest investment, SKT participated in the Series C round through its venture capital arm, SK Telecom Venture Capital (SKTVC). Just last month, Germany-based software company SAP also invested in Anthropic. SKT expects to close the investment in the third quarter of this year, chief AI global officer of SKT Chung Suk-geun told TechCrunch.

    SKT is joining the white-hot generative AI space race via the strategic investment in Anthropic. The telco says Anthropic and SKT plan to co-develop a multilingual large language model customized for global telco firms. Co-founder and chief science officer of Anthropic Jared Kaplan will lead the overall direction of the customization and the product roadmap.

    “SKT has incredible ambitions to use AI to transform the telco industry,” said Dario Amodei, co-founder and CEO of Anthropic. “We’re excited to combine our AI expertise with SKT’s industry knowledge to build an LLM that is customized for telcos.”

    The LLM, which SKT and Anthropic will jointly develop, will allow four Global Telco AI Alliance members, including Deutsche Telekom, e& and Singtel, to offer AI developments customized to their users in each market. The LLM would support English, Korean, German, Japanese, Arabic and Spanish languages.

    Anthropic, founded in 2021, is building an AI system called Claude, like OpenAI’s Chat GPT, which enables corporations to manage tasks, including searching, generating answers, automating workflows, coding and processing text in natural conversations. Most recently, the Google-backed AI startup has released its updated version, Claude Instant 1.2, which incorporates the strengths of Claude 2, its second-generation AI chatbot.

  3. Google-backed Anthropic raises $100 mln from South Korea’s SK Telecom

    SEOUL, Aug 14 (Reuters) – South Korea’s largest telco SK Telecom (017670.KS) said it will invest $100 million in U.S. artificial intelligence firm Anthropic to strengthen its telecommunications-driven AI business.

    Anthropic, a startup competing with OpenAI in building AI foundation models, is among the most well-funded AI firms, having raised $450 million from investors including Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Spark Capital in May. SK Telecom, which also made a smaller investment in May, said on Sunday that the two companies plan to jointly develop a global telecommunications-oriented multilingual large language model and build an AI platform.

    SK Telecom declined to reveal the size of its May investment or the size of its stake in Anthropic.

    Anthropic was founded by former OpenAI executives in 2021. Its Claude models are seen as major competitors to OpenAI’s GPT-4.

    In July, SK Telecom agreed with Deutsche Telekom, e& and Singapore Telecommunications to form an alliance to jointly develop telecommunications-driven AI businesses.

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