SK Telecom partners with AI search startup Perplexity in Korea

FILE PHOTO: The logo of SK Telecom is pictured at the GSMA's 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

(Reuters) - SK Telecom, South Korea's largest telco, is partnering with U.S. AI startup Perplexity to offer the artificial intelligence-based search engine to its users as an alternative to Google and Naver, the companies told Reuters.

The partnership would allow SK Telecom's subscribers to use the paid version of Perplexity for free, and for SK Telecom to access Perplexity's proprietary models to build personal AI assistant products with access to real-time information, the companies said.

The details about the partnership, including timing of the rollout of Perplexity Pro version to SKT users, still needs to be worked out, SKT's investment team said in an interview.

The partnership could expand financially as SK Telecom did not rule out possibilities to invest or form joint ventures with Perplexity, they added.

"It's a win-win situation because SK Telecom is giving more value-add to their subscribers and we are getting access to their subscribers through their distribution channels," Perplexity CEO Aravind Srinivas said in an interview.

A Google search challenger, Perplexity AI uses generative AI models to answer user inquiries while providing sources of information. It raised $73.6 million from investors including Nvidia and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos last month. The round was led by venture capital firm IVP and valued the company at about $520 million.

San Francisco, California-based's Perplexity saw its website and mobile web had 45.6 million visits in December, according to Similarweb data. It offers a free version as well as paid version that charges users $20 a month for unlimited searches.

SK Telecom has been working with Silicon Valley startups to access frontier technology and explore using generative AI. Last year, it announced a $100 million investment in U.S. AI model maker Anthropic to jointly develop a large language model for the telecom industry.

(Reporting by Krystal Hu in New York; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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