Qualcomm has always been the leader in pioneering next generation technology

Jay Srage
President, MEA & Southeast Asia – Qualcomm

Interview – Gulraiz Khalid


Jay Srage: Would you like to tell our readers about the history of Qualcomm in the mobile industry?

Gulraiz Khalid: To give you some background, the foundation of Qualcomm is based on the creation of technology that enables mobile broadband and that’s where Qualcomm has a unique position. All the patents and all the IPs that go into all the mobile networks, including the 3G smart phones, the 4G smart phones and the ones that are going into 5G are all based on the technology that Qualcomm has created.

Qualcomm has always been the leader in pioneering next generation technology. When everybody was on voice in the 90s, we created the first mobile internet connected phone towards the end of 90s with the CDMA Technology and that CDMA technology evolved into LTE. So from 2002 to 2010 the focus has been connecting people to the internet through smart phones using mobile broadband.

JS: Where are you heading today as a company?

GK: In terms of what we are doing right now and how we have evolved as a company, I would say that when we started, we were about smart phones and that was the core business but we have started to go into adjacent segments around the IoT space especially automobiles. We have made significant progress in the past few years in connected automotive and are now moving into the next phase which is v2x which is vehicle to everything connectivity. So that is vehicle to pedestrian, vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure and that’s going to change the landscape of transportation. It’s going to make autonomous driving a reality and it’s going to reduce accidents so the benefits of having the connectivity are going to be industry changing. Besides this we are also focusing on multiple segments mainly entertainment, wearables tracking and some other IoT verticals.

JS: How soon will we see “Automated Driving” and what should be the real expectations?

GK: The evolution is going to be gradual. We are not going to get there by phasing in or phasing out. Initially the whole idea of connected cars is “assisted driving” so it’s not going to be completely autonomous, the driving is going to be assisted autonomous driving. You are going to get interaction with infrastructure to be able to manage traffic, to manage accidents and the achievement will be to minimize these kind of accidents, “minimize” not “eliminate”. So from the legal perspective nothing changes because the car is not autonomous, you are the assistant driver. Autonomy is happening in very close areas and that’s going to stay, the autonomy will stay in very dedicated tracks in very dedicated areas and in controlled environments until other issues are resolved.

Initially the whole idea of connected cars is “assisted driving” so it’s not going to be completely autonomous, the driving is going to be assisted autonomous driving.

JS: Africa is a very important market for telecom operators – however, it has quite different dynamics than other markets. Would you like to elaborate on that?

GK: Africa is more of an adopted mature technology market. It means that Africa only adopts a technology when the devices and the ecosystem drops down to a point where it’s affordable and that’s quite logical given the economies and the purchasing power of the area. When we talk about the migration of technology, 2G is there because of legacy. 3G is deployed and is widespread and the countries in this region that have jumped to 4G are very few. There are few specific markets and areas which have adopted that but if you look at the continent, it has successfully migrated to 3G and now it’s in the phase to migrate to 4G. Why? Because the price of the devices has actually reached affordability.

Now, we can talk about 4G smartphones below $100 which is affordable in terms of the initial migration. Ideally, we want to see it go down to the $50 mark or below but that’s a roadmap and we will get there.

2G is now is very low cost ranging from $7 to $15 and from a consumer point of view, this is not the person who wants to be connected to the internet, he just wants to use it for the phone. But when we talk about the digital divide we talk about being connected to the internet. This digital divide is being addressed now with 3G smartphones that are affordable. The migration of the operators to 4G is happening and that’s going to bridge the gap for better connectivity usage even more.

JS: When will see the actual commercialization of 5G?

GK: 5G will be standardized in the 2019 time frame and in 2020 it will be commercialized globally. You may see some 5G networks launch here and there, maybe in Korea and Japan in early 2018 and maybe in US in second half of 2018 but commercial availability of the devices will not happen before 2020.

We have announced X50 that will be launched in the second half of 2018. 5G will come quickly in many areas like the US, Europe, China, Middle East, and then there is Africa where it’s all about the 5G devices hitting the affordability mark. The roll out and network discussions will start in Africa anytime in 2020. And when the price will hit the $100 mark that’s when you will start seeing the acceleration. So it really comes down to price for this region.