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Five telcos have inked a pact to build large language models (LLMs) customized to meet the needs of their industry as well as support multiple languages. 

The efforts will be driven by a new joint venture to be established by the telcos, comprising South Korea’s SK Telecom, Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, Abu Dhabi’s e& Group, Singapore’s Singtel, and Japan’s SoftBank. Collectively, the telcos have a global customer base of 1.3 billion across 50 markets, according to a joint statement released Monday. 

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The new entity will be set up this year and develop LLMs designed specifically to enhance telcos’ engagement with customers through digital assistants and chatbots. These artificial intelligence (AI) models will be optimized for languages used in the telco’s domestic markets, including German, Japanese, Arabic, Korean, and English, as well as others, such as Bahasa Indonesia, so the models can be rolled out in Southeast Asia. 

The joint venture will also focus on deploying AI applications to support the telcos’ needs in their respective markets. Singtel Group’s subscriber base totals 770 million in 21 markets, including Australia and Indonesia, while Deutsche Telekom has 250 million subscribers in 12 markets, including the US, and e& Group has 169 million subscribers in 16 markets, including the Middle East and Africa. 

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“Compared to general LLMs, telco-specific LLMs are more attuned to the telecommunications domain and better at understanding user intent,” the companies said in their statement. “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 companies said these LLMs are being optimized and trained on telcos’ customer service data, which will help finetune the model for telco-specific questions. The telcos said this process is essential because information relevant to the sector is rarely included in training models for general-purpose LLMs, pointing to tariff and contract models, and data on specific hardware, such as steps to reset routers.

Telco chatbots need this detailed information to better understand, summarize, and respond to subscribers’ questions. 

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“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,” the carriers said. 

“We as telcos need to develop tailored LLMs for the telco industry to make telco operations more efficient, which is a low-hanging fruit,” SK Telecom CEO Ryu Young-sang said. “Our ultimate goal is to discover new business models by redefining relationships with customers.”

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Integrating telco-specific LLMs also will enable Deutsche Telekom’s Frag Magenta chatbot to be “more human-centric”, said Claudia Nemat, Deutsche Telekom’s board member for technology and innovation. The generative AI-powered chatbot currently handles more than 100,000 customer service interactions each month.  

“AI personalizes conversations between customers and chatbots, [and] our joint venture brings Europe and Asia closer together,” Nemat added.

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