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[CES 2022] SK to launch Sapeon Inc. for AI chip supremacy

SK hynix and SK Square Vice Chairman and CEO Park Jung-ho announces the official launch of SK ICT Alliance at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Las Vegas on Thursday. (SK)
SK hynix and SK Square Vice Chairman and CEO Park Jung-ho announces the official launch of SK ICT Alliance at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Las Vegas on Thursday. (SK)


LAS VEGAS – SK Group’s three tech units, SK hynix, SK Telecom and SK Square, have teamed up to launch a new ICT technology development and investment body, called SK ICT Alliance.

Their first project will be Sapeon Inc. where the three firms will make co-investments in the US to target the burgeoning AI chip market, the group said.

During a press conference held on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Thursday, top executives, including SK hynix CEO Park Jung-ho who doubles as CEO of SK Square, an investment firm that was spun off from SK Telecom in November, officially announced the launch of SK ICT Alliance.

The newly formed organization sees three SK branches combine their expertise--SK hynix on chips, SK Telecom on telecommunications and SK Square on investment --to respond to the growing convergence of the chips, 5G and artificial intelligence industries.

For Sapeon, SK Telecom, SK hynix and SK Square will invest a combined 50 billion won ($41.5 million) to form the new entity and hold 62.5 percent, 25 percent and 12.5 percent stakes respectively.

“Sapeon Inc. will serve as SK’s outpost to expand its AI chip business and target global big tech companies based in the US as clients,” an SK official said. “Sapeon Inc. will allow SK to secure abundant chip development personnel in the US and foreign investments. Sapeon Korea will be Sapeon Inc.’s subsidiary and be in charge of Korean and Asian markets.”

Sapeon is the name of an AI chip developed by SK Telecom. To enable AI, chips have to process massive calculations at high speeds. Currently, graphics processing units, or GPUs, are widely used for AI, but they consume too much electricity.

SK Telecom claims that its Sapeon AI chip consumes 20 percent less power but computes 1.5 times faster than a typical GPU. Also, it’s almost 50 percent cheaper.

The current Sapeon chips are manufactured by the world’s No. 1 foundry, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. The next Sapeon model will also be manufactured by TSMC, according to Ryu Soo-jung, vice president and head of AI accelerator at SK Telecom.

By Kim Byung-wook (kbw@heraldcorp.com)
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