At a 5G/IoT day in San Diego, mobile chip giant Qualcomm outlined the current state of play with 5G and what we can expect from it in the near future.
As has been well documented, the telecoms industry got its act together a year earlier than was originally anticipated on 5G, thanks in part to using a non-standalone version as a stepping stone. This enabled the enhanced mobile broadband aspect of 5G to be introduced nice and quickly, but more novel features such as ultra-reliable, low-latency and network slicing require the full-fat, standalone version of 5G.
That will be fully standardised with release 16, which is scheduled to be rubber-stamped by the 3GPP in the middle of next year. That will open the door for things like autonomous vehicles, smart factories, mobile VR and all sorts other wireless exotica, which in turn should open up all these exciting new commercial use-cases and revenue streams 5G has long been promising.
We were able to chat to Durga Malladi, who is the 5G GM at Qualcomm, and he was quick to push back on our characterisation of eMBB as the relatively boring side of 5G. His phone was set up with Verizon 5G and he did a live speed test which yielded a download speed of 1.8 Gbps. That’s pretty impressive and, while we’re not sure where the immediate need is for such mobile bandwidth, the tech industry always seems to find a use for it.
Smart factories are something Qualcomm is especially keen to bring attention to as a validating use-case for 5G. Using unlicensed spectrum, a factory could be set up with its own private network, with a guaranteed level of ultra-reliability, that will enable all the machines and people to constantly wirelessly communicate with each other. That in turn could enable new levels of orchestration and efficiency.
A lot of the day involved Qualcomm talking up its own contribution to the progress of 5G, which is fair enough and it wouldn’t be Qualcomm if it didn’t. The company is right in the middle of all this stuff, however, so it does know what it’s talking about, and it used the event to prepare the assembled media and analysts to prepare for a big 5G year next year.