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SK Telecom CEO touts UAM as ‘game changer’

SKT CEO Ryu Young-sang (SKT)
SKT CEO Ryu Young-sang (SKT)

SK Telecom CEO Ryu Young-sang on Thursday showed confidence in debuting the telecom giant’s own urban air mobility (UAM) service by 2025, touting UAM or flying vehicles as a “game changer” that will offer solutions to resolving social costs of traffic-related issues. 

“Today’s business environment is being reshaped at an unprecedented speed since COVID-19,” Ryu said in a column released via the company’s website. 

“UAM used to be considered a technology that could be commercialized in 2030, but global companies are seeking to push the timeframe forward. SK Telecom also aims to debut the service by 2025 and start its autonomous-driving service from 2030.” 

UAM is a flying car that takes off and lands vertically, carrying passengers and cargo. For its use of electric-powered battery and collision avoidance and autopilot technology, UAM is considered an ideal concept of future mobility in metropolitan areas with frequent traffic congestion. 

“SK Telecom’s future business for the next decade should be something that has not yet been explored but has a great potential to revolutionize the world,” Ryu said. “Adding to that, UAM can tackle challenges facing our society.” 

The CEO’s comments come amid SK Telecom’s push to secure an earlier edge in the nascent but lucrative UAM business that is expected to become a whopping 1,800 trillion won ($1.4 trillion) market by 2040. 

SK Telecom is leading one of the three consortiums that recently submitted their bids to join the K-UAM Grand Challenge, a government-led program to select a UAM business operator. Hyundai Motor Group and Kakao Mobility also compete to win the deal by creating separate consortiums, respectively. 

By forging a partnership with Hanwha Systems, Korea Airports Corp. and Korea Transport Institute, SKT will leverage its expertise in operating 5G and 4G information and communication technology services to establish a real-time communications environment for UAM. 

Though SKT’s UAM technology has not been tested publicly, some market experts view it as in the lead since it has partnered with US aviation manufacturer Joby Aviation, a market pioneer. SKT has also made it clear that it would bring Joby’s S4 aircraft to Korea, which can fit four passengers and travel up to 240 kilometers on a single charge. The S4 has undergone over 1,000 rounds of test flights and also performed NASA’s UAM demo test.

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)
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