September 30, 2023

Barcelona, ​​Spain – South Korean telecommunications giant SK Telecom It plans to launch a flying taxi service in 2025 and expects it to generate “significant” revenue, a senior executive told CNBC.

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Last year, SK Telecom and US firm Joby Aviation tied up to develop air taxis for the South Korean market. Joby Aviation is a manufacturer of so-called electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles. These electric flying vehicles are seen by advocates as a way to transport people around dense cities and avoid traffic.

The South Korean government is trying to commercialize air taxis by 2025.

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SK Telecom and Joby Aviation are looking to take advantage of the government’s support. SK Telecom’s chief development officer Ha Min-yong said in an interview with CNBC on Sunday that the company’s air taxi service will be made commercially available “sometime in the middle of 2025” before expanding into other areas such as logistics.

“So by 2025, if we are able to prove that the quality of service with safety and security is acceptable to the general public, they [the government] will allow the operator to expand its scope of service to include logistics and tourism as well as medical-related services,” Ha told CNBC at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

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SK Telecom is looking to expand its business beyond being a traditional mobile carrier and has its eyes on new areas such as artificial intelligence and flying taxis. These aircraft will eventually need to connect to next-generation 5G networks to operate and fly autonomously. This is where SK Telecom’s area of ​​expertise comes in.

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While this form of transport is at an early stage, consultancy Roland Berger estimates that by 2050 there will be around 160,000 pilotless electric drones worldwide. The company says they will generate annual revenue of around $90 billion.

SK wants a piece of the telecom pie and Ha said that if all goes well, the air taxi could be a big revenue driver for the company, “but not immediately.”

“So at least five for the next [to] Seven years in, we need to make sure that the service that we’re going to offer to, you know, society and the community is adequately protected,” Ha said.

“Once it is very well accepted by the community and society, we believe it will generate a significant amount of revenue.”