Mobile carriers quicken the pace to build AI chip infrastructure

2023.11.22 14:49:01 | 2023.11.22 16:18:13

[Courtesy of SAPEON]이미지 확대

[Courtesy of SAPEON]

SAPEON Korea Inc., an artificial intelligence (AI) semiconductor subsidiary of South Korean mobile carrier SK Telecom Co, unveiled its new AI chip model X330 on Thursday, fueling the competition for AI chips among local mobile carriers. Korea’s mobile carriers are looking to expand their AI business by not only relying on NVIDIA Corp.’s infrastructure but also strengthening cooperation with domestic companies to build AI infrastructure. SK Telecom is expanding the use of SAPEON’s AI chips and spam detection technology for its services, while KT Corp. is working with AI chipmaker Rebellions Inc. to provide its hyperscale AI model Mi:dm to its customers.

Currently, the AI chip market is virtually monopolized by NVIDIA’s graphics processing units (GPUs) with a market share of 80 to 90 percent. But other companies are starting to jump into the AI chip business to reduce their dependence on NVIDIA and secure their own technology, including Microsoft Corp. unveiling its own AI chip Maia 100 at Microsoft Ignite 2023 held this month.

SK Telecom is thus focusing on securing the competitiveness of its AI solutions through SAPEON, with its recently released neural network processing unit (NPU) X330 improving AI performance by supporting transformer-based large language model (LLM) operations. Its computational performance is also about twice as fast as NVIDIA’s L40S model, according to SAPEON.

SK Telecom also uses a 7.6-petaops NPU farm built with SAPEON. At a press conference held a week ago, SAPEON presented examples of SK Telecom’s services using its semiconductors, including a vision AI technology that recognized reusable cups in the Happy Habit Project. The X330 more than quadruples the previous generation’s performance, showcasing the ability to process multiple requests at once. SK Telecom also plans to use SAPEON’s chips to develop voice phishing prevention as well as spam and smishing text detection technologies.

Meanwhile, KT is actively working with Rebellions for business-to-business (B2B) transactions, offering its super-sized AI Mi:dm that employs Rebellions’ NPU ATOM to B2B customers in addition to using it for its own services. Rebellions, a local AI semiconductor company, formed an AI full-stack alliance with KT in July 2022, with KT making a strategic investment of 30 billion won ($23.24 million). Like SAPEON’s X330, Rebellions’ ATOM supports transformer models and floating-point calculations to run an LLM. Prior to the Mi:dm’s launch, Rebellions worked with KT Cloud Corp. to commercialize cloud based NPU infrastructure. By collaborating with Rebellions, KT is strengthening its own infrastructure and becoming more cost competitive. “By collaborating with Rebellions, we have increased power efficiency by six times and lowered inference costs by 50 percent,” KT said at the last meeting where it announced Mi:dm’s launch.

Rebellions, in the meantime, plans to begin the mass production of “ATOM+” chips, which are optimized for ultra-large AI models, in the first quarter of 2024.

By Jeong Ho-jun and Choi Jieun

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