LIVE FROM IFA 2019, BERLIN: Qualcomm emphasised the importance of partner deals to the success of 5G, as it unveiled a series of moves around its Snapdragon processors designed to help drive the technology into the mass market.

In a keynote presentation, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon (pictured) noted 5G has brought about a big shift for the mobile industry and beyond, because the technology has achieved early fast growth and involves a range of sectors not considered under earlier mobile technology evolutions.

“We believe in the 5G transition, 5G and AI will evolve side-by-side. And that will create an era of accelerated innovation, transforming virtually every industry, will create new jobs, will change productivity, and improve significantly the experience of the mobile devices to enrich our lives,” he noted.

“It’s a great moment for the telecoms industry because in every other transition of wireless, that was part of the telecommunications industry…5G is different”, he explained, citing uses in the automotive industry, IoT and energy sectors.

Amon added 5G will transform the user experience, noting the technology will be “significantly better than 4G” and do more to “enrich our lives” than previous generations of mobile technology.

It is this broad spectrum of uses and disruption to the approaches of the past which makes collaboration essential, he explained. “When we think about our role as an enabler of industries in a horizontal model…it’s about partnering with many companies in this ecosystem, from operators to device makers to application developers to ecosystem providers”.

Speakers from Qualcomm partners Deutsche Telekom, BMW and Samsung each offered their views during the presentation, with Jun Hee Lee, SVP and head of the technology strategy team at Samsung, stating such collaborations had enabled it to make 5G available “faster than anyone thought possible”.

He revealed more than 2 million consumers have already bought 5G smartphones from the vendor and said the company expects this figure to double by the year-end.

But there are challenges around driving the next stages of 5G development. Amon noted investment is key to building a successful ecosystem, while also highlighting the importance of spectrum in terms of expanding the technology’s coverage.

Qualcomm’s immediate focus in this regard is on mmWave and sub-6GHz spectrum, which it tackled with the unveiling of the Snapdragon X55 5G modem-RF system. It said this is the industry’s first commercial chipset combining the modem, and RF transceiver and front-end, along with mmWave antenna modules and software covering “power-saving and performance-enhancing 5G technologies”.

Amon explained Qualcomm developed a new set of benchmarks for its modem and RF combo, noting the “old metrics of how modern technology works are no longer adequate”.

He added simply delivering high data rates is no longer the challenge, noting the company is now focused on expanding access to 5G to the mass market.

The company plans to add the technology to its 6- and 7-series Snapdragon chips in 2020 using the new modem and RF system. In a statement, the company said 12 device makers including Oppo, Vivo, HMD Global and LG Electronics had committed to using the new Snapdragon 7 series in future 5G devices, while the 6 series update is “designed to make 5G user experiences even more broadly available”.

It also unveiled the QTM527 mmWave antenna, which is used in the updated X55 system. Qualcomm said this is particularly key for operators looking to offer fixed wireless access, enabling production of “flexible, cost-effective, high performance 5G mmWave customer-premises equipment”.

Amon noted such kit would play a key part in expanding access to 5G, citing benefits in terms of connecting the unconnected along with aiding operators as they look to bring the technology to smartphones and build “solutions for the IoT and industry and smart cities”.