At CES 2019, TechRepublic Senior Managing Editor Bill Detwiler spoke with Qualcomm's Sanjeev Athalye about the three major areas that 5G aims to address and how some of the new platforms will impact the technology's rollout. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Bill Detwiler: What is Qualcomm's opinion on the state of 5G as it stands now and how do you see the market evolving in the next year?
Sanjeev Athalye: We've been working on 5G for over a decade in various forms. We've kind of not really played the hype cycle except to create momentum in the industry for interest in 5G. So we worked on research and standardization, and now we're very much in the productization and commercialization phase. So I think for the past year, or maybe two years, we've been saying that 2019 is when commercialization would really take place in the form of handsets as well. And so that's really where we are right now.
To step back for a second, the three major areas that 5G aims to address are enhanced mobile broadband, things that we use with our smartphones and mobile hotspot routers. Then there's massive IoT, and then there's mission critical or ultra reliable communication.
So, just to be clear, this phase of commercialization is really focused on the enhanced mobile broadband phase.
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Bill Detwiler: Talk to me a little bit about some of the new platforms that are affecting 5G. So you all have the Snapdragon 855, you got the X50 5G modem, and I've seen a few little inklings of the X55. Just talk a little bit about some of the platforms and maybe how they're different from previous platforms, how they're going to enable the growth and development of 5G.
Sanjeev Athalye: So, within the space of smartphones, or adjacent to smartphones, we've always talked about chip sets. So, we have the base band, the RF chips, power management chips, etcetera. And then we've also made a large foray into RF front end chip sets, actually chips that form a part of the chip set. And then of course you throw in wifi, Bluetooth and all these other ancillary connectivity, as well as non-connectivity applications.
So, from that perspective we are similar with 5G as we were with 4G and with 3G, that our chip set consists of a large number of technology and product elements that helped form something like a smartphone. What is different with 5G is now we've expanded into newer and higher bands. So, 3.5GHz, for example, and then millimeter wave at 28GHz and 39GHz for example.
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Bill Detwiler: Talk a little bit about power management when it comes to the chip sets. How important is it especially, whether it's handsets, or especially for like IoT devices that may rely on 5G technology and connectivity, batteries, power management is always critical. How do you address that when it comes to 5G technology? Is it more of a challenge? Is it the same challenge?
Sanjeev Athalye: I think our heritage has always been mobile compute, and therefore power consumption besides performance has always been paramount in our minds. In the case of, as we've gone from 3G to 4G to 5G, basically the data rates have increased, and essentially power consumption is a function of how much compute and how much data you're chugging through the chip. So, that is no different from 3G to 4G to 5G, but now we're at a higher scale because we're talking multi-gigabit per second capabilities as opposed to a few hundred megabits per second capabilities.
The other part of power consumption that is important is now we're talking about millimeter wave, and millimeter wave inherently leads to higher power consumption. However, if we step back and look at higher data rates, higher bands, higher power consumption, we have to look at it in terms of how much power is consumed per bit transmitted. And it turns out that with these higher data rates, actually even millimeter wave is more efficient than if you were to use a slower technology because you're staying on for a longer period of time in order to transmit a certain amount of data.
So what we've done is kind of built upon our heritage of power consumption, even with high data rate products, and we've taken it to millimeter wave, but we've also kind of overcome, or are overcoming, the additional burdens or challenges that millimeter wave bring from a power consumption standpoint.
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Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.