Qualcomm Takes The Stage At MWC22 To Show The World Where 5G Is Headed

Mobile World Congress is, perhaps, the most crucial connectivity industry event held every year in Barcelona. For years, it’s been a who’s who showcase for the world’s leading tech companies (and innovators) to disseminate their views about the advancements and potential of connectivity.

Like nearly every other tech event, last year’s event was impacted by the pandemic, with only 20,000 people (according to GSMA) attending in person, though 120,000 participated in an online fashion.

Regardless of how physical attendance pans out this year, there is no better showcase to capture the industry’s attention on where the mobile and connectivity markets are headed. Earlier today, Qualcomm used MWC22 to promote its view about where 5G is headed, along with providing a glimpse of its future technology roadmap. Qualcomm’s long-time position in the connectivity market gives, of course, instant credibility as it has a leadership posture in many of the ingredients used in today’s bleeding-edge smartphone and mobile devices, spanning the gamut from SoC (System on Chip) to cellular 5G and WiFi 6 chipsets. In other words, when Qualcomm speaks, the world snaps to attention.

What are the highlights of Qualcomm’s technology demos at MWC22?

While most users are still upgrading their smartphones to models with 5G radios, Qualcomm used MWC22 to unveil its technology roadmap that promises to deliver several “essential” mobile innovations needed to advance the evolution of 5G to 6G. These research innovations are cross-industry in nature and address use cases that comprehend advanced MIMO, AI-enabled interface, the metaverse, automotive, positioning and Industrial IoT.

It’s helpful to understand Qualcomm’s motivation for setting the gears into motion that ultimately will deliver 6G. Qualcomm foresees a whole host of new generation connected devices, dubbed the Connected Intelligent Edge. Born in Qualcomm’s research labs, the company’s initiatives are designed to coagulate the groundwork of 6G.

At MWC22, Qualcomm’s presented the following research demonstrations, all of which are intended as proof points designed to power its “5G Advanced” initiative and ultimately set the stage for the arrival of 6G. These research demos included:

Advanced MIMO Evolution: Antenna design innovations in RF and MIMO will deliver new capabilities, efficiencies and flexibility to the 5G platform, a critical progression step toward 6G

Evolution of Mobile mmWave: Demanding new uses case such as Mobile VR will demand machine learning, mobility enhancements, and spectrum “sharing” that will heighten performance and optimize 5G mmWave deployments

Ultra-Precise 5G Positioning: 5G can be leveraged to deliver unheard-of positioning precision for mobile broadband and low-complexity IoT devices, a formidable benefit for an expanded range of indoor and outdoor device deployments.

Industrial Precise Positioning: Indoor industrial environments are challenging to obtain exact positioning data due to obstructed line of sight conditions. 5G precise positioning will be a key “enabler” for Industry 4.0 devices.

AI-enabled 5G Air Interface Design: Machine learning offers several benefits because of reduced communication overhead. These benefits include increased usable capacity, extended battery life and improved efficiency in performance.

The Path to the Metaverse: The convergence of the physical, digital and virtual worlds will require best-in-class 5G performance to avoid a gimmick-free experience.

Industrial 5G Networks: The “smart factory” concept consolidates AI for choreographed multi-point transmissions and a 5G “sidelink” that can connect even more factory devices with superior reliability.

Wide-Area IoT Expansion: 5G Reduced Capability functionality can provide extended coverage and connectivity for a sizable number of 5G IoT devices. This capability is also referred to as 5G NR-Light, along with improvements for mesh networks.

Advanced C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything): As most industry experts know, Qualcomm is strident in its view that the safest autonomous driving experience will be delivered via best-in-class connectivity. Qualcomm’s C-V2X demo showcased how connectivity among infrastructure/cloud dramatically improves safety, precise positioning, and services across the entire transportation ecosystem.

What does this all mean for the average user today?

Practically speaking, not much. These technology demos aim to convince device manufacturers across Qualcomm’s vast ecosystem that the company services. After all, it has a robust technology roadmap that comprehends tomorrow’s challenges, usage models and infrastructure dynamics across the connectivity spectrum. Average consumers are still transitioning to 5G-based mobile devices, and much of the 5G performance benefits are still being gated by substructure considerations and rollout delays. Several technology executives from Dell, T-Mobile, DISH Wireless, Neptuno USA, Samsung and AT&T recently posted an excellent group piece laying out what they believe must happen to get the 5G rollout back on track.

However, putting the 5G rollout snafus aside, Qualcomm should be commended (once again) for doing what it does best: providing its glimpse of what the future will look like from a connectivity standpoint over the next decade.

The role of AI deserves mention since Qualcomm also used MWC22 to take the wrappers off its Snapdragon X70, the first-ever modem-to-antenna 5G System with AI. Integrating AI into the modem itself will assist devices in driving faster speeds, broader coverage, lower latency and better power efficiency. In Qualcomm’s view, the introduction of AI into modem solutions is essential because the company believes that 60% of data processing ultimately will occur outside of the central cloud, what the company describes as the “connected, intelligent edge.” Qualcomm says that its total addressable market (TAM) will rise from $100 billion to $700 billion over the next decade for this class of solutions.

It’s clear that AI is a powerful element of Qualcomm’s overall connectivity strategy. The company sees AI as pivotal because of its ability to place 5G on a higher trajectory for better performance and a more immersive user experience. With an eye towards the eventual arrival of 6G, Qualcomm’s technology’s roadmap, as enunciated at MWC22, establishes a clear view of where connectivity is headed and how the company is focusing its investments.

Mark Vena is the CEO and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research based in Silicon Valley. As a technology industry veteran for over 25 years, Mark covers many consumer tech topics, including PCs, smartphones, smart home, connected health, security, PC and console gaming, and streaming entertainment solutions. Mark has held senior marketing and business leadership positions at Compaq, Dell, Alienware, Synaptics, Sling Media and Neato Robotics. Mark has appeared on CNBC, NBC News, ABC News, Business Today, The Discovery Channel and other media outlets. Mark’s analysis and commentary have appeared on Forbes.com and other well-known business news and research sites. His comments about the consumer tech space have repeatedly appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, TechNewsWorld and other news publications.

SmartTech Research, like all research and tech industry analyst firms, provides or has provided paid services to technology companies. These services include research, analysis, advising, consulting, benchmarking, acquisition or speaking sponsorships. Companies mentioned in this article may have utilized these services.

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Mark Vena

Mark Vena

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CEO and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research…I write about disruptive technology