Qualcomm Conducts The Mobile 5G Orchestra, Cranking It To 11 At MWC 2019

By Patrick Moorhead - February 27, 2019
Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon does the industry toast with the industry who’s who officially ushering in the age of 5G. PATRICK MOORHEAD

Mobile World Congress Barcelona is always the biggest show of the year for the mobile industry, especially the carriers, operators, and handset OEMs. However, one of the biggest enablers of everyone in the mobile ecosystem that has been pushing mobile 5G is Qualcomm. This year’s show was all about 5G and how everyone at the show is either preparing for 5G or already has 5G products ready to launch when the networks do. Qualcomm is one of the key innovators in 5G, and their involvement has been pivotal for 5G to be where it is today. In fact, I have previously written about Qualcomm’s orchestrator role before here. This is an update on that. This time, 5G is real: devices, services, infrastructure, and the industry can thank Qualcomm for that. Qualcomm’s 5G celebration at MWC 2019 best exemplified the company’s role as a 5G orchestrator. 

Qualcomm also has more partners than ever launching 5G devices or announcing 5G devices at the show. The amount of companies launching a device in the initial roll-out has gone from 4 with 4G LTE to 20 with 5G, which should be a significant indicator regarding partner optimism and willingness to take a risk. 

 Ahead of the show, Samsung announced its Galaxy S10 5G with mmWave. However, they did not show it to the public until MWC 2019. Xiaomi also took one of their most popular phones, the Mi MIX 3 and announced a 5G version would be coming soon as well. LG announced that their upcoming V50 device would be coming soon in both a Sub-6 and mmWave version depending on the geography. ZTE and Nubia also showed off their 5G devices, the ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G, and Nubia Mini 5G. Other partners like OPPO, Sony and OnePlus showed off their 5G prototype devices at the show, suggesting that their 5G devices are coming soon as well. All of these phones are being enabled thanks to Qualcomm’s 5G technology, be it the modem, SoC or RF front-end. All of these smartphones are harnessing the power of the Snapdragon 855 SoC paired with the Snapdragon X50 modem and RF front-end, which gives Qualcomm credibility in claiming strong 5G leadership. 

This transition from 4G to 5G is different from the transition from 3G to 4G, namely the fact that there is only globally agreed-upon standard. The 3GPP has set the 5G NR standard and everyone is building to that standard as opposed to having to choose sides as they did in the 3G/4G transition. This allows more manufacturers and operators to be aggressive on their approach to adopting the new technology, which explains the 20+ operators and 30+ devices coming with 5G. When it comes to the US, all of the major carriers are launching 5G in 2019 and have been aggressive with their investments. These operators are working vigorously to get their networks up and running so that they can start selling 5G’s capabilities as soon as possible. Operators can point to use cases that already exist today that will help the user experience improve by order of 10 to 20X with 5G to significantly change the user experience. With the higher throughput and lower latency, users will be able to eventually utilize their cloud storage in an unlimited manner or think of yet-to-be-invented services. 

5G is well ahead of where 4G was at the same time. PATRICK MOORHEAD

Qualcomm is at the center of all the 5G activity, especially if you see how many partners the company had at their booth at MWC 2019. Qualcomm validated their role in 5G with their 5G moment where they brought together almost the entire 5G ecosystem to recognize the moment that 5G has finally arrived. The company is also not taking its foot off the gas either, with their next generation of modems and RF front-end for later in 2019 already on the way. Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president also said that the company already has a 5G SoC coming in early 2020 as well. 

These new cutting edge products align with the company’s overall strategy to enable customers, transform industries and enrich lives with its technology. Qualcomm enables its customers through inventing and implementing new IP and using engineering to solve complex problems. Qualcomm’s partners rely on them to keep innovating and keeping the pedal to the metal on innovation and ultimately allow the industry to transform itself with new capabilities. As the industry transforms, new use cases are introduced that improve people’s lives and bring people closer together. This market position puts Qualcomm in a unique place to monetize on its leadership role and sell multiple components per device to OEMs if they want to have 5G.

5G Qualcomm Snapdragon. PATRICK MOORHEAD

Having a leader like Qualcomm that shares their technological inventions with others helps to raise all boats in the 5G race and allows OEMs to focus on further accelerating innovation in other areas. Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said it best when he told me, “I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished over the last two years.  Pulling in the launch of 5G by one whole year and having the ecosystem ahead of the networks creates the potential for an accelerated adoption of 5G. This is a great showcase of Qualcomm’s business model in action - helping create the standards, developing the ecosystem, technology, and products and transforming industries. It was an honor to have our partners with us to celebrate that 5G is real and 5G is here.” 

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.