By Jof Enriquez, Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq
Qualcomm has announced a "5G Pioneer" Initiative with Chinese companies to deliver 5G-ready devices commercially by 2019. Through the partnership, Qualcomm says it will provide Lenovo, OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi, ZTE, and Wingtech the platform to offer 5G mobile solutions, as well as related technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.
“Qualcomm Technologies has close relationships within China’s mobile and semiconductor ecosystem, and we’ll continue to work with this ecosystem to drive innovation as we move from the 3G/4G era to the 5G era,” said Cristiano Amon, president, Qualcomm Incorporated.
Many commercial handsets built by Chinese manufacturers already have Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips inside them, and this relationship expands the collaboration to include 5G R&D and trials.
“Lenovo started 5G technology research as well as productization since the global communications industry began the 5G standard-setting process, and we have been working closely with Qualcomm Technologies in both aspects,” said Lenovo CEO Yuanqing Yang.
Qualcomm's frayed relationship with longtime partner Apple, and the financial gains offered by a powerful Chinese economy, have spurred the company to cozy up to China, which is keen to show off its global leadership in 5G. Not even efforts by some U.S. legislators to freeze out Chinese competition will hinder Qualcomm’s push into the Chinese market.
The newly announced initiative benefits Qualcomm because its "chips will very likely ship in volumes comparable or greater than what Huawei and Apple ship today, if not more," and the deal favors Chinese OEMs because "it helps them to prepare their future smartphones to be globally compatible and compliant which would theoretically make accessing foreign markets easier," according to Forbes contributor Patrick Moorhead.
Related, Qualcomm also announced that Lenovo, OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi will buy $2 billion worth of Qualcomm’s 4G and 5G RF front end components over the next three years. This is in line with Qualcomm's strategy to boost 5G RF chip sales.
5G devices will need to comply with 5G 3GPP New Radio (NR) specification to be fully deployed commercially. This week, Deutsche Telekom (DT), Intel and Huawei say they were the first to achieve 5G interoperability and development testing (IODT) with a commercial base station, using fundamentals of the new 5G standard – including new synchronization, coding, frame structure and numerology components. The trial used a configuration with the largest cell bandwidth and the latest Massive MIMO multi-antenna and beamforming technology, as per the new standard.
“After delivering leading contributions to the 3GPP’s work on 5G standards, Deutsche Telekom, Huawei and Intel moved swiftly to jointly verify implementation progress through standards-based interoperability testing,” said Arash Ashouriha, SVP for Technology Innovation at Deutsche Telekom, reports Mobile Europe. “The success of our test is a significant step on the path to 5G ecosystem maturity and early 5G commercialisation.”
South Korean wireless operator SK Telecom, with Qualcomm and Ericsson, previously announced plans to conduct interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials based on 5G NR 3GPP specification. SK Telecom and KT Corp. will be showcasing their 5G services at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. This week, SK Telecom formed a 200-member task force to accelerate 5G deployment.
“We will focus on developing equipment working on global 5G standards and the building of a wireless network infrastructure,” the company said, according to RCR Wireless. “We will also enhance technical cooperation with co-operative companies.”
South Korean mobile operators are expected to invest $9.36 billion in 5G network technology in 2018, with plans for full commercial deployment of 5G services in early 2019.
In other tech news, 9to5Mac has unearthed a patent application filed by Apple for its millimeter wave antenna that will be required for 5G service. Referring to an "Electronic Device With Millimeter Wave Antennas on Printed Circuits," this is reportedly the fourth Apple patent application for 5G technology.