One of the biggest concerns that I recently expressed with the global rollout of 5G networks is the perceived unaffordability of the flagship devices that have been launched with 5G support. However, at its IFA 2019 Keynote, Qualcomm clearly set out to answer my questions specifically—don’t I wish—by announcing plans to make its 5G technology available in their lower-end chipsets.
Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm, announced on the IFA Keynote stage that Qualcomm will support multiple tiers of 5G devices starting later this year with the launch of 5G networking in their 7 Series and 6 Series chipsets. It previously only had 5G within its top-of-the-line 8 Series Snapdragon X55 5G chip.
According to Amon, the rollout to the 7 and 6 Series chipsets is Qualcomm’s attempt at making 5G affordable and scaling the networking technology. The present challenge that the networking technology faces—and the next step in its global rollout—is achieving scale. And to that end, “devices are going to help us scale 5G,” he said.
With the introduction of their 7 and 6 Series 5G chips, Qualcomm and Amon also announced that 12 OEMs are already working on devices that will support the chipsets, with the first planned launches scheduled for Q4 of this year—one of which is the Samsung A90 5G that was announced here at IFA 2019.
5G is Coming. Fast.
As for where the industry currently lies with the global rollout of the 5G network, Amon promises that it’s been happening fast. Part of the problem with the perceived slow rollout is the fact that the media and manufacturers have been talking about 5G technology and the promise it will bring for nearly three years.
That said, the fact remains that the 5G rollout is actually ahead of schedule (it was initially promised by 2020) and it’s happening faster than 4G LTE’s rollout nearly a decade ago. For context, Amon provided some specific data points: When the first 4G LTE networks came online, just four carriers were involved with the global rollout and only three OEMs had devices capable of running on the network. The consumer base represented by those telecom companies totaled some 120 million users. With the current 5G rollout, those numbers increase exponentially. More than 20 carriers from nearly all developed countries are part of this first wave of the global rollout, which represents some 2.2 billion consumers. Along side the telecom companies are more than 20 OEMs who’ve developed 5G-ready devices.