FUTURE OF 5G WORKSHOP, SAN DIEGO: Qualcomm switched its public narrative on 5G, turning its attention away from smartphones to focus on what it sees as a larger value opportunity in bringing the technology to new industries.

John Smee, Qualcomm’s 5G R&D lead and VP of Engineering, told Mobile World Live consumer mobile broadband still matters, because “smartphone data plans are what’s introducing money into this ecosystem”.

However, he said Qualcomm has its eye on an even bigger prize, looking to capture new value by expanding the technology to connect factories, hospitals, vehicles and other new segments.

“All of a sudden those things matter more because that’s where the economic expansion is beyond what we were doing already in 4G LTE.”

Smee acknowledged installing 5G technology will require a hefty investment from enterprises, but noted Qualcomm is working to make such deployments as economical as possible by designing its kit to support multiple use cases.

“You invest once and you’re solving multiple problems at the same time. So we’re not asking people to make a perfect bet on what they think the use case is going to be.”

Crystal ball
In a series of demonstrations for media and analysts, Qualcomm said it is already testing standalone 5G on mid-band 3.5GHz spectrum using its own mobile core and an experimental site with 256 antennas situated on the roof of its San Diego headquarters.

Smee (pictured, right) said the company is testing both fixed and mobile applications, and also working on downlink enhancements to improve network performance at the edge.

Qualcomm is also working to optimise batteries for smartwatches and other wearables, research it said could deliver a 68 per cent drop in power consumption. It aims to include this research in 3GPP’s Release 17 specifications.

Unlicensed technologies also factor into its plans: the company is developing two different synchronised spectrum sharing schemes for unlicensed 5G, which it said could help meet the needs of industrial applications that can’t be sufficiently served by Wi-Fi today.

Qualcomm paid for travel to this workshop. This article reflects honest reporting on the event.