Some of Asia’s largest wireless companies are expanding beyond the actual telecom business and entering the chip market. The South Korean mobile phone providers SK Telecom (SKT) and Korea Telecom are planning their own chips for artificial intelligence (AI). SKT is also aiming for an alliance with semiconductor developer Qualcomm, one of the largest providers of mobile communications, to jointly design server chips for data centers.
The motivation of the mobile phone companies is not the global lack of chips, but a strategic step for innovation and further growth, reported LightReading. SK Telecom presented the AI chip Sapeon at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month. This should consume 20 percent less power and be half faster in deep learning calculations than conventional GPUs previously used in AI systems – originally designed as graphics cards and increasingly used for AI “Graphics Processing Units”.
Sapeon-Chips by SK Telecom
The first Sapeon chip was introduced more than a year ago. This can be used to optimize media content and video resolutions. The processor is used, among other things, in SKT’s AI assistant Nugu, an AI speaker that supports Amazon’s Alexa and both English and Korean voice control.
SKT has already spun off its AI division into its own subsidiary, which is expected to be called Sapeon Korea. According to SKT, adapted AI systems should be used in all of the mobile phone company’s products and services.
AI as a service of Korea Telecom
South Korean competitor Korea Telecom (KT) is working with FADU, a flash memory developer. With jointly developed AI processors, artificial intelligence is to be offered as a service from 2023: “AI-as-a-Service” (AIaaS). These include AI solutions for autonomous vehicles and financial services.
In China and Japan, the mobile phone companies there are pursuing similar strategies, but on a smaller scale. China Mobile established Xinsheng Technology in July 2021. The subsidiary develops and produces chips for the “Internet of Things” (IoT) as well as for security and smart home products.
Telcos in China and Japan are investing in chips
In addition, China Mobile has recently invested in Innochips Tech, a manufacturer of products for 5G mobile communications. The two companies want to cooperate in IoT, chip manufacturing and other areas.
NTT DoCoMo is the largest mobile operator in Japan and two years ago it acquired a stake in the Israeli startup Wiliot – along with Verizon, Qualcomm and others. Wiliot develops applications and solutions on a cloud-based platform that analyzes sensor data using machine learning.