Q&A with Qualcomm: What’s next in 5G

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By Elisabeth Kindig


In episode 5 of Tech Lightning Rounds, Beth Kindig goes directly to the source of expertise in hardware devices and hosts discussions with technologists who specialize in the field. Interviews are held in “lightning round” format, which are rapid interviews with tech experts for immediate depth on each topic.

Qualcomm has found itself in the spotlight this year with the launch of 5G networks, handsets and an important settlement with Apple. Known as the company that commercialized the world’s first 5G mobile platform, 5G networks launched in the United States and China were accessed with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 mobile platform and X50 modem.

The new mobile platform is an essential piece to the roadmap for software-compatible 5G mobile platforms and take advantage of the newly announced second-generation 5G mmWave antenna module and sub-6 GHz RFFE components and modules. This modem-to-antenna solution is designed to enable device makers to quickly and cost-effectively develop 5G for any 5G network or region in the world.

In this episode of Tech Lightning Rounds, we had the opportunity to speak to Ignacio Contreras, Director of 5G Marketing on the topic of 5G mmWave technology. Contreras takes the opportunity to explain how 5G millimeter wave technology will work in urban areas and why 5G infrastructure will do more than make your phone faster. 5G will impact every industry with over 12 trillion goods and services powered by 5G and enabled by 5G.

“You can connect 1,000 times more devices versus what you can connect today with 4G LTE”
– Ignacio Contreras, Director of 5G Marketing at Qualcomm

Don’t miss this exciting interview with a company at the forefront of 5G.


08:20 BK: Qualcomm was in the spotlight this month on many regards, both with the Apple settlement and with the launch of 5G technology including the first 5G networks in the United States and China. I got to speak with Qualcomm’s Director of 5G marketing, Ignacio Contreras, on his domain expertise, and he discusses what we can expect between now and 2035 in terms of 5G technology.

08:40 BK: Qualcomm has recently said at the Snapdragon Tech Summit, that 5G technology is one of the most significant transitions that we will have. Why is that?

08:48 IC: It’s very significant, because unlike any other transition that we have had in terms of cellular technology, it’s designed from the ground up to connect more than just phones. If you look at the transition from 2G to 3G, that focus more on bringing data to phones, like sending pictures and multimedia messages, to 4G, which brought mobile broadband to phones, so you can enjoy high speeds and manage your apps and content on your phone, 5G technology has been designed from the ground up, not just to make your phones faster and more responsive, but to connect all kind of things. Going to your car, to your laptop, to your gas meter, to the robot in the industrial factory. So the interface and the whole network has been designed to be very flexible to be, yes, it will be faster, it will bring multilevel speeds to phones and devices, but also that the old two dimensions in terms of the technology has been conceived.

09:49 IC: Another one is to be able to support mission critical services, things like vehicle to vehicle communication, or to reliability to manage indoor processes, and again, robots and machinery in a manufacturing plant for example, as well as support for massive number of things, the massive IoT. So you can connect 1,000 times more devices versus what you can connect today with 4G LTE.

10:15 BK: Let’s fast-forward three years or four years from now. What will I be doing, not only on my mobile device, but what will be happening around me that 5G technology will enable versus 4G today?

10:26 IC: Yes, excellent question. So we think that it will impact virtually every industry, actually we commissioned some studies that found out that by 2035, over 12 trillion of goods and services will be somehow powered by 5G technology and enabled by 5G. In the immediate term, some of the industry that you will see compute, for example, we see the rise and more interest on always connected PCs, and those are already seeing the benefits of 4G LTE connectivity. So that clearly covers an area in which you see the benefits as well of bringing 5G technology very quickly, again, estimation for mobile, but as for computer to be able to access all these cloud services and not just rely on the computer and the power that you have on your own device, but also access all this storage and processing power you also have in the cloud.

11:21 BK: Qualcomm helped commercialize the world’s first 5G mobile platform, and in the last few months, the 5G networks that were launched in the United States and China, were accessed with Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile platform, and X50 modem. I take the opportunity to ask an expert how 5G Millimeter wave technology will work in urban areas.

11:42 BK: What will 5G technology do to metro areas? What will it look like in 10 years from now, because of 5G?

11:48 IC: It will look with much more faster speed, more capacity overall. Again, particularly in this dense urban areas, which lead to high-level capacity to be able to serve all the connectivity needs of people living there. That’s why one of the key developments with 5G technology has been the ability to use millimeter wave spectrum, which is very high frequencies on 28GHz or 39GHz, that are very effective in creating more capacity for networks, but very hard to manage in terms of technology because of the penetration characteristics of those high frequencies. They don’t penetrate concrete very well, and they don’t penetrate trees or any obstructions very well. So we have had to work on some key breakthrough technologies to be able to solve those kind of challenges. One of them is called beamforming, in which you are able to focus the energy of the RF transmissions into one very specific direction. So you can point out to the base station directly or point out to one particular reflection with a wall or something that allows you to maintain the connectivity with the 5G base station using millimeter wave.