SKT, Deutsche Telekom, e&, Singtel and SoftBank plan LLM JV

Monday, February 26th, 2024 
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SKT, Deutsche Telekom, e&, Singtel, and SoftBank Corp. Announce Plan to Establish a Joint Venture

  • Joint Venture Company to develop Large Language Models (LLM) specifically for telecommunications companies
  • Joint Venture Company to be established within this year
  • Initial fine-tuning of models takes place

BARCELONA, Spain — SK Telecom (NYSE:SKM, “SKT”), Deutsche Telekom, e& Group, Singtel and SoftBank Corp. today held the inaugural meeting of the Global Telco AI Alliance (GTAA) at MWC Barcelona 2024 and announced their plans to establish a joint venture.

The meeting was attended by SK’s Chairman Chey Tae-won, SKT’s CEO Ryu Young-sang, Deutsche Telekom’s CEO Tim Höttges and DT’s Board Member for Technology & Innovation, Claudia Nemat, e& Group’s Group CEO Hatem Dowidar, Singtel Group’s CEO Yuen Kuan Moon, and SoftBank’s CISO Tadashi Iida.

Through the Joint Venture Company, the five companies plan to develop Large Language Models (LLMs) specifically tailored to the needs of telecommunications companies (telcos). The LLMs will be designed to help telcos improve their customer interactions via digital assistants and chatbots.

The goal is to develop multilingual LLMs optimized for languages including Korean, English, German, Arabic and Japanese, with plans for additional languages to be agreed among the founding members.

The joint venture plans to focus on deploying innovative AI applications tailored to the needs of the Global AI Telco Alliance members in their respective markets, enabling them to reach a global customer base of approximately 1.3 billion across 50 countries. Deutsche Telekom boasts about 250 million subscribers across 12 countries, including Germany and the U.S. The e& Group has 169 million subscribers in 16 countries across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, while the Singtel Group has 770 million subscribers in 21 countries, including Australia, India, and Indonesia.

The Joint Venture Company will be established within this year.

Compared to general LLMs, telco-specific LLMs are more attuned to the telecommunications domain and better at understanding user intent. By making it easier for telcos to deploy high-quality generative AI models swiftly and efficiently, telco-specific LLMs are expected to help accelerate AI transformation of various telco business and services, including customer service.

The LLMs are currently being optimized. Telcos’ customer service data is used to fine-tune the model for telco-specific questions. This is because tariff and contract models, information on special hardware such as the router, for example (e.g. How do I do a reset?) are rarely found in the general training data of the large models. But it’s exactly this content that a telco bot needs to know. So that it is able to understand, summarize and respond to these specific concerns.

This targeted training ensures the LLM understands the unique language and needs of telecom operators, paving the way for enhanced, personalized, and efficient customer experiences.

“We as telcos need to develop tailored LLM for the telco industry to make telco operations more efficient, which is a low-hanging fruit. Our ultimate goal is to discover new business models by redefining relationships with customers. The Global Telco AI Alliance brings synergy to its members by allowing them to achieve more by working as a team,” said Ryu Young-sang, CEO of SKT.

“We want our customers to experience the best possible service. AI helps us do that. Already today, more than 100,000 customer service dialogs a month in Germany are handled by Generative AI. By integrating telco-specific large language models, our ‘Frag Magenta’ chatbot becomes even more human-centric: AI personalizes conversations between customers and chatbots. And our joint venture brings Europe and Asia closer together,” said Claudia Nemat, Board Member Deutsche Telekom for Technology and Innovation.

“This is a monumental step for e& and for the Telco industry at large. From streamlining customer support interactions to enabling personalised recommendations, this multi-lingual LLM will revolutionise how businesses engage with customers”, said Dena Almansoori, Group Chief AI and Data Officer, e& group. “In collaboration with our Global AI Telco Alliance partners, we look forward to shaping both the present and future of customer engagement and setting new standards for efficiency and innovation across the telecommunications landscape to better serve our customers and create meaningful impact.”

“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. This multi-lingual 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. 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,” said Yuen Kuan Moon, Group Chief Executive Officer, Singtel.

“Through a powerful alliance with industry leaders, we embark on a mission to revolutionize global communication, elevate service quality, and ignite a new era of technological innovation powered by AI. Together, we have the power to shape the future of telecommunications, empowering communities worldwide with seamless connectivity and boundless opportunities,” said Hideyuki Tsukuda, Executive Vice President & CTO of SoftBank Corp.

Links: SK Telecom; Deutsche Telekom; e&; Singtel; SoftBank