SK Telecom unveils AI pyramid strategy and plans to triple AI investment


SK Telecom (SKT) has set a date of 2028 to become a global AI leader, with plans to triple the proportion of its AI-related investments and a revenue target of KRW 25 trillion (£15.1bn).

The operator currently devotes approximately 12% of its investment towards AI and related disciplines, based on 2019 to 2023 figures. Between 2024 and 2028, this number is expected to rise to 33%.

SK Telecom’s AI pyramid has three layers. The bottom layer is AI infrastructure, which consists of artificial intelligence-flavoured data centres and semiconductors, as well as multiple large language models (LLMs). Tangible investment in this area will include solutions such as immersion cooling systems and hydrogen fuel cells for the data centre side.

Much of the innovation will come from Sapeon, an AI semiconductor company established by SKT. The company, in its own words, was ‘born to meet needs for cloud AI inference’, and is set to launch X330, a chip which promises twice the computational performance of other AI inference chips on the market. X330 also promises 1.3 times the power efficiency of competitors, again looking at the sustainability angle.

In terms of wider AI credentials, SKT has a strong supporting cast for its multi-LLM strategy. Partners include Anthropic – who it was reported earlier this week got a multi-billion dollar investment from Amazon – and OpenAI. SK Telecom itself pumped $100 million USD into Anthropic last month.

The two-track approach ‘secures a diverse LLM lineup as well as an overall platform that encompasses the LLMs’, as the company put it. This will heavily utilise both telco-specific large language models, as well as an intelligence platform where multi-LLMs and AI technologies ‘customised for diverse telco use cases’ can be utilised. SKT has also named its AI technology ‘A.X’ and its LLM ‘A.X LLM.’

The two remaining layers of the pyramid are more business-focused. AI transformation (AIX), the middle layer, will see SK Telecom innovate existing core business areas with AI, including mobile, broadband, and enterprise. AI contact centres will reduce up to 30% of the company’s costs in the medium- to long-term level, according to a company estimate.

For the top layer, AI service, SKT announced the official launch of ‘A.’ – if you are keeping up with all these monikers – which will in time become a personal AI assistant. While the claim that a forthcoming AI phone service ‘enables new connections through communication innovation that can only be achieved by a telco’ might raise an eyebrow, the use cases sound interesting, including recommending people to call based on call history. Other potential services the company will explore include music and sleep management.

“Destructive innovation triggered by generative AI is already creating new value in all areas of industry, society, and life. With our AI pyramid strategy, we will make accelerated moves to strengthen our own capabilities and cooperate with diverse partners, and expand our AI-related resource investments,” said Ryu Young-sang, CEO of SK Telecom.

“Through these efforts, we aim to become a global AI company that benefits customer, increases industry productivity, and solves social problems with innovative technologies and services,” added Ryu.