China Mobile and SK Telecom are two examples of Asian operators taking very different approaches to technology and business innovation.

Robert Clark, Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

February 14, 2024

2 Min Read
SK Telecom's booth during the 2023 Mobile World Congress.
(Source: Matthias Oesterle/Alamy Live News)

Not many telcos would have put 'enter the Australian pet market' on their dance card for this year. But SK Telecom has crossed that marker, striking an agreement this week to supply its diagnostic tool, X Caliber, to Perth-based medical equipment firm ATX Medical.

X Caliber uses AI to analyze X-ray images of animals and deliver the result within 30 seconds, with a disease detection rate of around 85%. It's a cloud-based solution that requires no additional equipment and is accessible from any device.

It is just one small part of the grand AI design at SKT, probably the world's most AI-forward telco, which has adopted a 'pyramid' strategy encompassing AI infrastructure, transformation and services.

This approach is already impacting SKT's bottom line, though that’s mostly in its data center and cloud businesses rather than AI apps and services.

It has a pipeline of these, like its Korean-language contact center, AI chatbot and subscription service that it will soon start to roll out – but it will be some time before they can drive growth and profitability.

That's one version of Asian telco innovation in the 21st century. Then there's China Mobile, a state- and party-controlled entity where profitability is not always the priority.


The big telco's reconfigurable 5G RF chip, announced six months ago, was chosen as one of China's top ten major government enterprise projects last year. As the first domestically developed reconfigurable chip for 5G, the Po Feng 8676 has strengthened China's 5G self-reliance, according to state-run news service CGTN.

Researcher Li Nan, who headed the chip project at the China Mobile Research Institute, has said the R&D team had proposed a reconfigurable architecture that would meet the "application requirements of multi-band, multi-mode and multi-station" wireless.

For operators everywhere else – Vietnam excepted – the idea of building core network chips, or any kind of advanced hardware, is way beyond scope.

But this project underlines China Mobile's broad remit, which is to aid industry development and carry out any task the government requires, whether that be to underwrite the development of a 3G technology or test out 6G satellite.

Reportedly it has just renamed its technology department the 'technology and innovation department', emphasizing the need to keep turning its R&D into products.

As EET China put it, China Mobile cannot just output standards and specifications. "It must personally carry out innovation work and be deeply involved in the process of transforming innovation results."

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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 ( 

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