Qualcomm CEO: 5G technology is generating worldwide interest among governments

Qualcomm's CEO speaks at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference.

ASPEN, Colo.—Qualcomm’s chief executive said that the cellular industry’s move to 5G network technology is interesting among the world’s governments, garnering more interest than he’s ever seen in his more than two decades in the business.

“5G has captured more of the governments’ view [than previous Gs], worldwide,” said Qualcomm’s Steven Mollenkopf during a keynote appearance here at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, explaining that 5G technology is poised to make significant changes to industries ranging from healthcare to transportation. “Now [5G] is about everything.”

“They want to be a part of it,” Mollenkopf added, noting that governments around the world are working to ensure that their constituents, including companies and consumers, are able to take advantage of the faster speeds and added network capacity that is promised by 5G.

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Indeed, the U.S. FCC has been working to free up additional millimeter-wave spectrum to wireless carriers and others for use in future 5G networks. Similarly, European governments have been working to foster research and development centers focused on 5G network technology. Asia, too, is working on 5G: South Korea is hoping to develop a commercial 5G network in time for when the country hosts the 2018 Olympics.

Further, Qualcomm’s Mollenkopf said that the wireless industry has developed 5G network technology faster than anyone expected. “You’re going to see it in 2019 for sure,” he said. “It’s accelerating. And what’s driving it is the acceleration of video.”

As a result of that growth in video, Mollenkopf said that a growing number of companies are now investing in both sides of the business: providing 5G connectivity and providing video to travel over that connection. In the United States, an example of this trend sits with AT&T, which is in the process of attempting to acquire Time Warner. Similarly, Verizon has been acquiring companies that have video advertising capabilities, such as AOL and Yahoo, and has launched video services through its Go90 app.

Interestingly, Mollenkopf also addressed two other major action items for Qualcomm: the company’s legal battle with Apple and its in-process acquisition of NXP. On Apple, Mollenkopf said that “we have a very unique business model, and it’s worth fighting for.” He didn’t provide any specific details on Qualcomm’s efforts to counter Apple’s patent-licensing lawsuit, but said that Qualcomm will continue to work to develop technology and then protect that research and development through patent licensing.

As for NXP, Mollenkopf explained that the acquisition is part of Qualcomm’s efforts to jump into the future of the connected automobile. “There’s a real change in the architecture of the car,” he said, noting that there’s an opportunity for companies to handle the heavy lifting involved in bringing high-powered processing into the automobile. “The car architecture creates a big opportunity for Qualcomm.”

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