SK Telecom announces $10M investment in Perplexity AI

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SK Telecom (SKT) has announced a $10 million investment in generative AI search engine startup Perplexity AI.

The partnership enhances SKT’s presence in the field of generative AI search technology, an area that has drawn considerable interest from major tech companies. The collaboration is expected to bolster SKT’s ‘AI personal assistant’ services.

Perplexity, a rapidly growing rival to Google, has already established a formidable presence in the AI search industry.

Processing over 230 million search requests monthly worldwide, Perplexity has attracted notable investments from industry giants, including Nvidia and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. It was recently recognised as the leading chatbot in usability by the Wall Street Journal’s “The Great AI Chatbot Challenge”.

The partnership between SKT and Perplexity was first hinted at during the MWC 2024 event in Barcelona, where they signed a strategic cooperation agreement. This new investment further solidifies their commitment to creating sustainable AI business synergies. In addition, Perplexity has agreed to invest in SKT’s Global AI Platform Corporation (GAP Co.), established in Silicon Valley last year to develop AI search services.

Perplexity’s AI search engine is built on a Large Language Model (LLM) and is distinguished by its conversational search capabilities, short response times, and accurate sourcing of information. Unlike traditional keyword searches, it allows users to interact with the AI as if conversing with a person, delivering a variety of related results, including quotes, images, and graphs.

An example of its functionality can be seen when querying about the skills of footballers Ronaldo and Messi. The AI summarises necessary information, such as team performance, awards, and scoring records, providing a comprehensive answer that saves users from sifting through multiple links. 

Additionally, Perplexity claims to counter “hallucinations” common in generative AI by providing sources like news articles, YouTube videos, and blog posts. The system also suggests follow-up questions for deeper exploration and offers quick translations and summaries for English articles.

This partnership aims to integrate Perplexity’s generative AI search engine into SKT’s ‘A. (“A dot”)’ AI personal assistant, enhancing its functionality with interactive queries, search result summaries, related search suggestions, and translation services. SKT will contribute Korean data and cultural content, aiding in fine-tuning the LLM and advancing search solutions for better performance in Korean language searches.

Lee Jae-shin, SKT’s Vice President of AI Growth Strategy, commented: “Through this investment cooperation with Perplexity, we have secured global competitiveness in the AI search engine market. 

“Based on the close cooperation between the two companies, we will strengthen A.’s search capabilities and plan to launch the highest level AI personal assistant service at home and abroad.”

Dmitry Shevelenko, Perplexity’s Chief Business Officer, added: “Both companies share a vision to provide the best AI services that enrich our lives. We are excited about this partnership and are pleased to have the opportunity to provide Perplexity Pro services to SKT customers.”

SKT plans to offer ‘Perplexity Pro’ – a premium subscription search service, free to its customers for one year – supported by joint marketing efforts through its A. and T Universe channels. This partnership will position SKT as the only domestic telecoms company to offer Perplexity’s services to local customers.

See also: KPN and ABP form tower company amid rising data demand

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