Amid Challenges, Qualcomm CMO Stresses Company's Role in 5G’s Future

May 24, 2019

By Rebecca Heilweil

This week, Qualcomm encountered a slew of new challenges, from complying with a government ban on one of its major chip customers, Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, to losing a federal antitrust case to the Federal Trade Commission over patent-licensing (Qualcomm intends to appeal).

Still, the American technology giant is dead-set on moving ahead with its plans for developing 5G technology. At Toronto's Collision Conference, Qualcomm CMO Penny Baldwin highlighted Qualcomm's role in building today's technology, and what new products its emerging 5G technology will enable.

One bright spot for Qualcomm is the recent settlement of a years-long dispute with Apple, which will pay an undisclosed amount to Qualcomm. Now the companies have entered a multi-year partnership. "They're a very important and large customer that we look forward to partnering within the years to come to help them bring their technology and products to market," said Baldwin. "It makes sense that the technology leader and the product leader in the smartphone industry be partners together."

Baldwin emphasized that Qualcomm intends to pursue 5G technology with full force and said that the company predicts that by 2020, the number of "smart-connected" devices (there are currently about 8 billion) will grow to 20 billion devices. Qualcomm's aspiration to lead the 5G technology market was further jump started by Intel's decision to stop developing 5G smartphone modems altogether last month.

5G, which refers to fifth-generation cellular technology, sends signals over extremely high frequency millimeter waves. Its primary benefits are increased capacity and faster transmission times. 5G advocates have long-promoted that the technology will enable applications such as remote surgery and autonomous cars, since new 5G networks will likely be fast and reliable enough to support new internet-of-things-based services.

Baldwin highlighted that near-future technologies will incorporate 5G and artificial intelligence simultaneously. "People will connect with things, and things will connect with things. So everybody will be talking in one big virtual circle," said Baldwin. "Instead of thinking of AI existing in the cloud, AI will exist in everything around you."

Baldwin also emphasized the role Qualcomm had played in today's technology. She pointed to video compression and streaming technology that's used by Netflix and the mobile GPS used by Uber. "Much of what your phone does is enabled by Qualcomm technology," said Baldwin.