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China telcos make early breakthroughs in commercial AI

China Telecom's 100 billion parameter Xingchen LLM is the preferred platform for China's state-owned enterprises.

Robert Clark

January 30, 2024

2 Min Read
Chinese flag in front of an office building.
(Source: Alan Novelli/Alamy Stock Photo)

When it comes to AI, Korean telcos might be more high profile, but the Chinese operators have made some early progress in commercializing their AI models.

China Telecom is leading the way following the release of its 100 billion-parameter Xingchen large language model (LLM) in November. The big operator is already deploying Xingchen internally for software development, network analysis and business writing.

Significantly, Xingchen is the first LLM from a central government enterprise, indicating it will be the preferred LLM for China's big state-owned organizations. This also means a "new mission and new positioning" for China Telecom itself, said an analysis by industry publication CWW. Its role will be to build out an AI platform and ecosystem that will help power innovation, support industry and uphold national security objectives.

So Xingchen has a heavy emphasis on aiding government and public services, capable of running scenarios such as corporate business analysis, public consultations and official document writing.

China Telecom has built out an initial batch of 12 LLMs ready for trial in state-run organizations in education, local governance, transportation, housing, finance and others. Early this month the operator announced it had made Xingchen open source, a move that increases transparency and will likely allow for easier and broader collaboration.

AI plus 5G new calling

"By continuing to open source basic large models, we will broadly empower more user scenarios to accelerate application implementation, and unite various partners," the company told CWW.

While China Telecom has been focused on government services, China Mobile has built a new customer service portal that integrates its Jiutian LLM with 5G new calling. The telco says Jiutian can respond to customers' natural language conversations, collaborate with human customer service to analyze and summarize content, and provide reply suggestions.

It seems a complementary fit with 5G new calling, which is an enhanced voice service that adds extra functionality such as intelligent translation, intelligent customer service and content sharing.

The other big operator, China Unicom, is yet to announce any trials or products of its first AI model, Honghu. Unveiled last July, Honghu is intended to generate and integrate multi-mode content and is reportedly designed for value-added telecom services.

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About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech (http://www.electricspeech.com). 

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