In addition to OEM support, Qualcomm is working on 5G with 18 major global operators

SAN DIEGO–Qualcomm announced today that its X50 modem will be used by more than a dozen device OEMs to bring the smartphone piece of the 5G equation to reality. This month the X50 modem supported 4.51 Gbps throughput using a millimeter wave radio link.

Speaking at a media and analysts event on Wednesday, Serge Willenegger, Qualcomm’s SVP and GM of 4G/5G and Industrial IoT, posed the question, “We have a chip, but will we have a network?” With that he noted 18 operators have come out publicly saying they will use the X50 for trials this year and/or commercial 5G launches in 2019.

So the first use case for 5G is enhanced mobile broadband, the silicon is in place, networks are coming around, “Will we have the devices?” Willenegger asked. Then he brought up a slide outlining more than a dozen OEM partners that “have joined us in pioneering 5G devices based on X50…toward launches in 2019.”

Those OEMs are: ASUS, Fujitsu, hmd, HTC, Inseego, LG, NetComm Wireless, Netgear, OPPO, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, Sony, Telit, Vivo, WNC, Wingtech, mi and ZTE.

The carrier partners are: AT&T, BT, China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT, LGU+, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Telstra, TIM, Verizon and Vodafone Group.

“We have use case, we have network, we have silicon, we will have devices. In 2019, it is going to be very important that the LTE system, the gigabit capability, backs us up. The devices will fall back to the legacy systems.”

Qualcomm vs. Intel

In a Q&A session, Willenegger was asked how strong was Qualcomm’s advantage relative to Intel as it relates to OEM traction for 5G devices.

“I’d say 19 OEMs strong,” he said. “It looks like our advantage right now is 19 OEMs” compared to Intel, which he said, “As far as I can tell it’s zero right now.” He referenced the work that goes in the 3GPP’s RAN Working Group 4, which, among other things, sets performance requirements for devices. Willenegger said to take a look at the contributions different member companies are making. He said there tends to be a pattern “where we drive toward higher performance metrics…raising the bar a little bit.” Then you see another set of companies “actively working to try and lower the bar on the device performance requirements.”

Malik Saadi, VP of Strategic Technologies at ABI Research, pointed out the absence of Apple, Samsung and Huawei as OEM partners for the X50. “Combined, these three vendors account for nearly 50% of total smartphone shipments and more than 80% of the premium smartphone segment, which will represent the main addressable market for 5G, at least in the early stages of deployment. While Huawei and Samsung have ambitious plans to power 5G smartphones using their own modems, Apple has lagged behind in terms of adopting the latest cellular technologies, and 5G won’t be an exception.”

Saadi continued: “So, this may indicate that the addressable market for Qualcomm’s 5G modem could be restricted to use by just the smaller OEMs. However, it is possible that early integration of 5G into their smartphones could act as a key differentiator, offering the potential to swipe market share from the top three vendors. This will much depend on the success of early implementations of X50 modem. Moreover, many of these smaller device OEMs have little to no presence in many countries, including the US, suggesting that other markets, notably those in Asia, could be the first to get their hands on 5G smartphones.”



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