On Display at Qualcomm 5G Summit: Mobile Industry’s Acceleration to 5G

As Counterpoint Research has been writing, 5G rollouts and 5G device activations are happening at a much faster pace than LTE. Till October, there were over 90 operators globally which had commercially deployed 5G, while over 300 additional operators had invested in 5G spectrum. Counterpoint predicts there will be 1 billion smartphone activations by 2022. 5G is certainly heating up. Here are the key takeaways from Qualcomm’s 5G Summit:

  • mmWave adoption: The US is full steam ahead with all major carriers – Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and US Cellular – rolling out mmWave. Japan and South Korea will have mmWave rolling out in 2020. Some rollouts have happened in Europe and Southeast Asia. 2021 will likely see rollouts in China and LATAM.
  • The latest testing by Ericsson, Qualcomm and US Cellular has seen a transmission of 5 km –  farther than early expectations. The increased capacity of mmWave has been added to stadiums and enterprises, and is being used for fixed wireless broadband.
  • Standalone (SA) 5G beginning to be tested and rolled out: US carriers are testing and beginning to roll out SA 5G in 2020, with more earnest rollouts in 2021. China, South Korea, Europe, LATAM, SEA, Japan and Australia will see SA 5G rollouts in 2021.
  • Most regions will see sub-6 carrier aggregation (CA) in 2021. The aggregation of FDD and TDD bands will greatly enhance 5G. CA will bring double sub-6 peak speeds in SA mode, increase capacity, expand coverage, greatly enhance user experience, and help accelerate the transition to SA 5G.
  • Open RAN continues to be disruptive and interesting to watch. New players will drive new applications which will be able to scale to city level or individual store or enterprise level, from micro cells to macro cells. This may lead to better coordination, faster deployments and, ultimately, new services.

Many companies are vying for new opportunities for growth via 5G. Qualcomm has many irons in the 5G fire. The company provided details on its own suite of open RAN hardware and current partnerships. Qualcomm Technologies has introduced a radio unit platform, a distributed radio unit platform, and a distributed unit platform. Qualcomm’s infrastructure tools are designed into Rakuten Mobile’s (and world’s first) vRAN network.

Other 5G updates include:

  • Qualcomm also unveiled 5G fixed wireless access gateway reference designs. As 5G is rolling out, many global operators are looking to take advantage of 5G deployments to offer fixed wireless access services.
  • Always-on-always-connected Windows on Snapdragon PCs continues to launch across wider price segments and now includes 5G designs. It has grown in popularity due to COVID-19 and more mobile workers. The security and lowered need to connect to public Wi-Fi is a tremendous selling point. HP, acer and Lenovo have announced 5G variants.
  • New 5G use cases being pushed by mobile operators but also pulled from companies and municipalities. These include applications for connected healthcare, cities, manufacturing, retail and automotive.
  • XR headsets get a bump with a Snapdragon platform. Headsets are becoming more affordable and more powerful. The latest Oculus Quest 2 VR headset is now priced at $299 and powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 5G platform. The platform delivers better power efficiency, 11x the AI processing power, and supports Wi-Fi 6. Gaming and B2B use cases have been growing. Qualcomm is incorporating 5G, including sub-6 and mmWave.

For a full review of US operator 5G deployments and services, see US Operator, Services and Spectrum Auction Update.