Qualcomm held its annual 5G summit online last week. I thought the company's use of a virtual reality conference center was very creative—it made me yearn to board a flight! Qualcomm dedicated day one to keynotes and the second to several breakout sessions. Today I would like to provide my impressions from the event.
5G RAN Infrastructure announcement
Qualcomm has been supporting small cell infrastructure providers such as Airspan Networks for some time. An early example is Airspan’s use of Qualcomm in three generations of the Sprint Magic Box platform. The final version was a 4G LTE Advanced unit featuring 4x4 MIMO, higher-order modulation at 256QAM and three-carrier aggregation. Now, Qualcomm is extending its reach even further into 5G RAN (Radio Access Network), announcing new designs with a dozen companies, including Airspan and Samsung Networks. With Qualcomm’s leadership in 5G, it is only natural that the company is expanding from end devices into infrastructure.
Keynote takeaways and session highlights
In my opinion, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon did a fantastic job highlighting core investment areas for the company in his keynote. A Microsoft Azure executive joined Amon for a discussion on the edge’s opportunity to supercharge 5G use cases and private cellular networking. The Azure team has been on a roll shoring up its telco cloud capabilities. I recently wrote an article about it, and if interested, you can find it here.
Mr. Amon also spoke about what Qualcomm is doing to enhance mmWave deployments and bridge the digital divide to address underserved areas of cellular connectivity. So far, the United States has focused on high band, which promises to deliver the highest levels of low latency and high throughput in densely populated urban areas. Propagation is challenging, but Qualcomm has successfully proved its ability to amplify distance without sacrificing performance. On the topic of bringing connectivity to underserved areas of the world, Mr. Amon spoke to the power of 5G and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). I wholeheartedly agree that FWA can be a powerful, affordable deployment platform for connecting rural areas. The single most compelling application in my mind is improving the overall global food supply by "supercharging" AgTech to increase yields for farming, ranching and hatcheries.
I also attended both the "5G and the Modern Network" and the "Building a More Resilient Society" breakout sessions at the event. What I liked about both was the outstanding balance struck between spectrum policy, technology platform enablers (such as mmWave and virtualized RAN) and use cases (such as smart transportation and IoT as a service). It is impressive that Qualcomm is providing compelling 5G platforms and advising governmental entities, as is the company’s efforts to help operators maximize the use of licensed spectrum.
I continue to be impressed by Qualcomm’s 5G innovation, which now spans from end devices to RAN infrastructure. The company is also making incredible breakthroughs in the propagation of mmWave and helping global operators more effectively manage their spectrum assets. With its focus on shaping policy and its portfolio of products, no other company is currently making more of an impact on 5G than Qualcomm.