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South Korean telco giant has its own AI chatbot

SK Telecom, one of South Korea’s biggest carriers, is planning to fully launch its own artificial intelligence chatbot, but is looking at a very different product from ChatGPT, an executive working on the project told CNBC.

The company launched a beta version of “A.” — pronounced “A dot” — in South Korea in May last year. It is based on generative AI, the technology behind OpenAI’s viral ChatGPT.

Eric Davis, vice president at SKT who is leading the work on A., said that the company will launch a full version in South Korea this year, adding that this proposition is very different from ChatGPT.

“It’s like you’re chatting with a friend, where you’re solving issues that you encounter in your daily life,” Davis told CNBC on Wednesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Davis said that SKT has been working on A. for a year and a half. It is is built in-house at the telecoms firm on so-called large language models — AI trained on huge amounts of data to be able to chat in natural language. It is the same technology as the one behind ChatGPT.

But Davis is keen to position A. as a very different product from ChatGPT. That’s because SKT also owns various services, ranging from music streaming to e-commerce and payment apps, which it is integrating into its chatbot.

“So, largely, the super app is the end picture there. Download our app, and we’ll do basically everything you want us to do and more,” Davis said.

A “super app” is a concept pioneered by Chinese technology giants, such as Tencent with its WeChat messaging service. The idea is that a person only needs one app, and that several third-party services are accessible via that app. In China, WeChat can be used for everything from booking holidays to payments.

Super apps are popular in China and in parts of Asia, but haven’t taken off in Europe and in the U.S. CNBC

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