Qualcomm Pushes Further Into Automotive Market At MWC 2019

By Patrick Moorhead - February 27, 2019
Automotive connectivity is increasing in importance in modern automobiles. QUALCOMM

It’s that time of year again—Mobile World Congress 2019 is now underway in Barcelona. I’m in attendance, along with several other members of the Moor Insights & Strategy team (Anshel Sag, Will Townsend, Chris Wilder), and a boatload of other analysts and industry folks—all here to see the latest in mobile technology, at the premier mobile conference. Today I wanted to offer my coverage on Qualcomm’s automotive connectivity announcements from the event.

Bringing 4G and 5G connectivity to the auto industry

The automotive electronics market is huge right now, and rapidly evolving. Between telematics, dashboard, electrification, ADAS, self-driving, and much more, there is a huge opportunity for tech companies to find their very profitable niche. Some vendors are going for it all. It makes sense that Qualcomm, a global leader in wireless communications, is staking out its turf in tomorrow’s automobiles. Qualcomm has already stated publicly that it has over $5.5B in auto backlog which seems to grow every quarter,

At last month’s CES, the company launched the 3rd generation of its Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit platform, a multi-tiered offering geared towards getting Qualcomm’s technology inside all classes of vehicles and gave further details on its C-V2X vehicle communication technology (see my coverage here). Here at MWC 2019, Qualcomm took things a step further with two new additions to its automotive portfolio: the Qualcomm Snapdragon Automotive 4G and 5G Platforms.

One of the major functionalities of these platforms is the aforementioned C-V2X communications. C-V2X, or vehicle-to-everything, communication allows the vehicle to communicate with other vehicles on the road, roadside infrastructure, and more, in the interest of safety. Cameras, LiDAR or radar cannot see around corners, but C-V2X can.

Additionally, the platforms offer a high-precision, multi-frequency global navigation satellite system, also known as HP-GNSS, and RF Front-End (RFFE) capabilities, which will support major global operators across key spectrum bands. High-precision satellite systems will help in all levels of ADAS and self-driving implementations. Other features include multi-gigabit cloud connectivity, high bandwidth low latency teleoperations support, and precise positioning for lane-level navigation accuracy.

The 5G Platform also features dual SIM dual active (or DSDA) capability, a first for the automotive industry. DSDA is important as some automakers want its own connectivity system for its services and another SIM for the driver’s or a Tier 1s service. Introducing both 4G and 5G platforms is a smart move that acknowledges the fact that not all auto manufacturers are operating at the same pace when it comes to 5G adoption. Like its multi-tiered Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platform, this segmentation will get Qualcomm inside many classes of vehicles—not just the premium, first adopters of 5G. This makes it easier for a Tier 1 or automaker to go all-in on Qualcomm.

Automotive Wi-Fi 6

Additionally, Qualcomm introduced the QC6696, its new Automotive Wi-Fi 6 chip. With dual Wi-Fi 6 MIMO access points, this chip will bring the company’s next-gen Wi-Fi connectivity to the automotive industry to enable high-quality in-car experiences. Think the ability to stream ultra-HD video or do screen mirroring from wireless backup cams and compatible devices. The chip also includes Bluetooth 5.1 support and Qualcomm aptX Adaptive audio, for high-quality audio streaming and voice support. Another nifty feature is the chip’s ability to extend the range at high data rates in order to connect to external access points, say when pulling up to your dealership. Imagine the ability to automatically check in, run diagnostics, and perform software updates, as soon as you are within range.

Wrapping up

Qualcomm continues to push the envelope and execute on its strategy for automotive connectivity, as evidenced by its announcements from MWC 2019. The new 4G and 5G platforms and the Automotive Wi-Fi 6 chip look to be great, next-gen solutions that I expect we’ll see inside of a lot of tomorrow’s vehicles—improving safety, communications, and overall in-car experience. I like what I see—I believe the company has what it takes to be successful here. I'd be remiss if I didn't connect this announcement to Qualcomm's overall growth story. The automotive backlog is at $5.5B now and this announcement plus future ADAS plans could make that number tiny. We'll see.

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.