Following its recent hefty $100 million investment in Anthropic, a significant competitor to OpenAI, Korean telecommunication giant, SK Telecom (SKT) has shown keen interest in yet another progressive AI company called Persona AI. Recognized as a leading specialist in Artificial Intelligence Contact Centers (AICC) in Korea, Persona AI has made a mark through its proprietary natural language processing engine. This software is made available to businesses through subscription, allowing for automated customer service.

Broadening their scope beyond Korea, Persona AI now offers AICC solutions internationally, and is currently engaged in pilot projects within the financial services sector, partnering with established companies such as KB Financial Group and Hanwha General Insurance. The details of SKT’s investment in Persona AI remains under wraps, yet it is evident that this has led to them becoming the third-largest shareholder in Persona.

In contrast to the more traditional human-run contact centers, AICC offers the advantage of round-the-clock service without the frustration of hold times commonly experienced with human agents. This doesn’t come without its challenges though, as the AI is still playing catch-up to humans in areas of voice recognition and interpretation. Yet, the success and acceptance of digital assistants like Siri and Alexa portray a positive image of how well individuals can adapt to this technology if executed properly.

Following in the footsteps of tech giants like Apple and Amazon, SKT has also developed its own speech recognition technology, aptly named Nugu. The plan is to amalgamate Nugu with Persona’s natural language processing technology to create a new joint AICC venture that provides Contact Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) to SME businesses.

According to Allied Market Research, SKT predicts an average yearly growth of 23.7% in the Korean AICC market for the remainder of the decade, reaching a value of KRW454.6 billion ($340 million) by 2030. Supporting this, Research and Markets forecasted the global AICC market to be valued at $36.1 billion by 2025.

Taken together, it seems SKT and Persona are gearing up not only to dominate contact center services but also to diversify into new verticals, such as voice recognition kiosks and voice-activated robots. “Amid the rapid growth of the AICC market, we got a great opportunity to work with excellent partners like Persona AI. We plan to lead the AICC market and expand the ecosystem so that voice AI can be used not only in contact centers but also in various industrial areas,” Lee Gyu-sik, head of SKT’s AI Contact business said.

Meanwhile, SKT’s investment in Persona AI seems to run parallel to its involvement in the newly launched Global Telco AI Alliance. Just last week, SKT invested in Anthropic, which offers an ethically aware chatbot named Claude. Together with Anthropic, the Telco AI Alliance intends to formulate a multilingual AI platform that supports different generative AI use cases, including customer service. Interestingly, despite the apparently separate path of SKT’s investment in Persona AI and the Telco AI Alliance, it’s likely the future might reveal some convergence of these two progressive ventures.