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AI takes center stage in telcos' tech drive

All News 10:05 February 07, 2021

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korean mobile carriers are expanding services integrated with artificial intelligence (AI) technology as they shift focus from telecommunications to find new growth drivers.

Last week telecom giant KT Corp. joined hands with Hyundai Home Shopping Network Corp. to establish an AI call center at the retail company's headquarters in Seoul.

This file photo, taken July 8, 2020, shows the logos of the country's three major telecom operators -- KT Corp. (L), SK Telecom Co. (C) and LG Uplus Corp. (R). (Yonhap)

The service incorporates voice recognition and text analysis technology so that AI can help customers with simple questions and can carry out tedious tasks, such as customer authentication.

KT said it decided to develop the AI service to help tackle increased call center use amid the pandemic.

SK Telecom Co., the country's largest mobile carrier, also commercialized a cloud-based customer contact center service last October that incorporates an AI chatbot by joining hands with Amazon Web Services Inc.

The telecom operator also plans to integrate AI in more of its services to personalize user experience, announcing Wednesday that it aims to release AI-based subscription services by partnering with companies in the food and beverage, education, rental and travel sectors.

"We are aiming for 20 million subscription users and 600 billion won (US$533.5 million) in sales by 2023," SK Telecom Chief Financial Officer Yoon Poong-young said in a conference call on the company's fourth-quarter earnings.

The announcement came as its tech businesses, ranging from internet protocol TVs to online commerce, have undergone accelerated growth.

Operating profit last year from the telecom operator's tech subsidiaries accounted for 24 percent of the total, compared with 14 percent in 2019.

"SK Telecom is experiencing improved profitability based on growth from its non-telecom units," Kiwoom Securities analyst Jang Min-jun said. "The company will likely be revalued once its subsidiaries go public."

Smaller rival LG Uplus Corp. has also focused on AI, committing 1.3 billion won to establish an AI research center with its affiliates from the broader LG conglomerate.

yunhwanchae@yna.co.kr
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