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[EXCLUSIVE] SK plans new AI chip collaboration with Qualcomm

SK hynix Vice Chairman and CEO Park Jung-ho tours the booth of SK Telecom at the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 on Wednesday. (Kim Byung-wook/The Korea Herald)
SK hynix Vice Chairman and CEO Park Jung-ho tours the booth of SK Telecom at the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 on Wednesday. (Kim Byung-wook/The Korea Herald)
LAS VEGAS -- SK and Qualcomm will collaborate on artificial intelligence chips in an effort to lead the burgeoning eco-friendly, low-power AI chip market.

Speaking exclusively to The Korea Herald at CES 2022 on Wednesday, SK hynix Vice Chairman and CEO Park Jung-ho said, “SK hynix, SK Telecom and Qualcomm plan to make co-investments and make good AI chips. I‘ll talk to Qualcomm to join in.”

“There are about 500 companies that do AI chips. It’s all about who gets into the ecosystem and becomes a (major) player,” Park added.

At CES, the world’s largest electronics trade show currently being held in Las Vegas, SK Group, the No. 3 conglomerate in South Korea, has set up a booth to explain its goal to curb 200 million tons -- 1 percent of the world‘s carbon emissions -- by 2030.

At the joint booth, SK Telecom, Korea’s No. 1 mobile carrier, unveiled its AI chip “Sapeon” to the public for the first time.



SK Telecom's sapeon AI chip (Kim Byung-wook/The Korea Herald)
SK Telecom's sapeon AI chip (Kim Byung-wook/The Korea Herald)
Specialized AI chips are essential components to enable artificial intelligence. They conduct massive calculations at high speeds but consume little power.

Conventional AI data centers process data with graphics processing units. GPUs consume a lot of electricity and have emerged as a significant contributor to environmental pollution. SK Telecom‘s Sapeon, Korea’s first independently developed AI chip, consumes 20 percent less power but computes 1.5 times faster than a typical GPU. It’s almost 50 percent cheaper.

SK Telecom currently commissions the world’s No. 1 foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to manufacture Sapeon chips.

Last month, SK Telecom decided to carve out its AI chip division as an independent company, tentatively called Sapeon Korea. After its establishment, Sapeon Korea will become a subsidiary of SK Telecom.

SK Telecom has also completed the patent registration of Sapeon, according to documents submitted to the US Patent and Registration Office. Sapeon will provide various services related to cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

By Kim Byung-wook, Korea Herald correspondent

(kbw@heraldcorp.com)
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