A new partnership between the South Korean and German operators will see SK Telecom (SKT)’s Ifland metaverse platform made available in Germany, with a joint venture (JV) potentially in the works

This week, Deutsche Telekom (DT) and SKT have announced that they have struck a partnership aiming to bring South Korea’s burgeoning metaverse platform, Ifland, to German customers. 

The deal will see the pair carry out a live trial of the metaverse platform before the end of the year, with the ultimate goal of co-creating virtual content for the European market. The test will reportedly include the creation of a virtual space within Ifland modelled on a specific German city. 

This could be just the first step of the two companies’ metaverse partnership. If initial tests prove successful, reports suggest that DT and SKT will consider setting up a metaverse JV to further expand the platform’s reach throughout Europe.

"The two companies have been discussing the European launch of Ifland since March,” SKT said in a statement. “Deutsche Telekom concluded that SK Telecom’s service has the potential to bring out positive reactions from the European market."

This would not be the first JV the two partners have struck in recent years, having created Techmaker, a 50:50 JV focussed on creating 5G indoor technology, just last year. The relationship between the two companies extends back numerous years, but until now has focussed primarily on R&D in areas like roaming, IoT, and 5G.

As part of this latest deal, DT says it will also work with SKT’s sister company, SK Square, to develop cybersecurity and mobile app marketplace solutions, via the latter’s investments in cybersecurity specialist SK Shieldus and app marketplace operator One Store.

SKT has been developing Ifland since at least the summer of 2021, showcasing it at this year’s Mobile World Congress in February with the intention of taking it international as soon as possible. In recent months, the company has made various investments into metaverse adjacent companies aiming to bolster the platform’s capabilities, including in Morph Interactive, a 3D-motion graphics specialist, and game creator Haegin.

As the concept of a metaverse has become more mainstream in recent years, the question of how telcos can best benefit from this development has become a major challenge. 

Telcos have long complained about so-called over-the-top (OTT) players, like Netflix and Facebook (Meta), reaping the rewards of their expensive infrastructure investments – in fact, just last week the European operators were once again calling for these big tech companies to help pay for their infrastructure investments. There is a major fear from the operators that this cycle could repeat itself with the metaverse, with the operators left footing the bill while content companies reap the rewards. 

This is largely why SKT, coming from one of the most youthful, tech-friendly markets in the world, is trying to take a more direct leading role in metaverse development, seeking to become a content creator in its own right with its Ifland platform. If the platform finds success, SKT could become an attractive partner for other telcos looking for support to enter the metaverse market.

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