Intelligent Connection: Qualcomm Invests in the 5G Future
By Norris Tangen
Qualcomm has been collaborating with companies in China’s mobile ecosystem for over 25 years, helping them to expand both at home and abroad. As Chairman of Qualcomm China, Frank Meng, says, “Qualcomm’s foundational technologies and solutions deliver cutting edge experiences with high-performance, low power computing connectivity.” The AmCham China Quarterly magazine spoke with Meng, who has been at the helm one of the company’s largest undertakings yet – overseeing the development, launch, and expansion of 5G in China – about the expansion of China’s 5G infrastructure, smart sports, and the future of intelligent connection.
Frank Meng serves as chairman of Qualcomm China and is responsible for overseeing the overall Qualcomm’s business and operations in China, including executing on the strategic initiatives of the Company and driving business growth, as well as further strengthening Qualcomm’s collaborations with the Chinese wireless communications ecosystem and the semiconductor industry.
Frank has 30 years of telecommunications experience, eight of those with Qualcomm, which included serving as president of Qualcomm China from 2003 to 2010. Most recently, Frank was President of 21Vianet Group in Beijing, where he was responsible for strategic planning, branding and marketing, government affairs and strategic initiatives. Prior to 21Vianet Group, he was with Motorola Mobility in Beijing where he served as senior vice president and president of Greater China, responsible for overseeing all aspects of Motorola’s Mobile Devices business and sales operations for Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Frank holds a bachelor’s degree of science in Microwave and Fiber Optic Communications from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, and a master’s degree of science in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic University of New York.
Photo courtesy of Qualcomm China
Qualcomm has a long history working closely with ecosystems to accelerate commercialization, not just in China but around the world. “With multiple generations of leading 5G commercial solutions, we have enabled more than 1,000 5G design wins, many of which come from our Chinese OEM partners.” Meng says, continuing, “In 2018, we launched the ‘5G Pioneer Initiative’ together with leading Chinese companies. We’ve watched the great success of these companies as they have grown and become leaders in delivering innovative 5G devices to consumers across the globe.”
The implications of 5G expansion are varied and wide-reaching. Meng says, “We are actively supporting Chinese companies as they expand 5G broadly into China’s economy and beyond, enabling innovation that will transform many industries, such as extended reality (XR), PC, automotive, industrial IoT, and more. For example, we’re working with the automotive industry to deliver 5G-connected vehicles with advanced digital cockpits and C-V2X. This will deliver safety-focused, more efficient transportation to the world.”
IoT is another important pillar of Qualcomm’s business focus. Meng says, “We have established five Joint 5G Innovation Centers in Nanjing, Chongqing, Qingdao, Nanchang, and Hangzhou with local governments and partners. In 2020, we launched the ‘5G IoT Innovation Initiative’ with more than 20 companies to expedite 5G innovations in device design, ecosystem cooperation and digital transformation.”
Meng emphasizes that Qualcomm is proud of their continued investment in China and collaborative efforts with local industry. With offices and teams in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Xi’an, Wuxi, and the first global innovation center in Shenzhen, the organization has invested heavily in the local market. Since 2004, this has also included investment in over 70 Chinese start-ups covering mobile technology and frontier technology. Meng is confident, “We believe Qualcomm and Chinese industries will have even bigger opportunities for cooperation ahead. 5G will keep evolving and we’ll keep creating value together.”
China’s 5G Investment Pays Off
China has become the undisputed global leader in 5G commercialization and development. While it might seem as if China became the 5G leader overnight, Meng notes these efforts have been underway for quite some time. He says, “2021 marks the third year of 5G commercialization and the 5G momentum worldwide is strong. China has played a major role in 5G commercialization. The strong ecosystem and supportive policy environment have led to incredible milestones, including more than 497 million 5G subscribers and the deployment of more than 1.3 million 5G base stations. And according to the MIIT, more than 239 million units of 5G smartphones have been shipped in China market from January to November, accounting for over 75% of total shipment.”
In China, 5G is regarded as essential infrastructure. Meng credits China for making 5G development a high priority, saying, “Just as highways, railroads and power grid. 5G will be the essential infrastructure to connect to the Internet, not only connecting billions of smartphones, but multiple billions of other smart devices and industries. In terms of taking the importance of 5G as the future of Internet, China is doing the right thing with an accelerated rollout of this technology.”
The implications of 5G technology are comprehensive and diverse, and with Qualcomm’s collaborations with Chinese companies at an all time high, they cover virtually every industry. Qualcomm has been working to use 5G mmWave to satisfy the growing connectivity demands across verticals such as smart sports. Millimeter Wave 5G, or mmWaves are frequencies starting at 24 GHz and beyond. While mmWave 5G networks are ultra-fast, they are also much shorter range and require 5G towers to be located within around a city block. While this makes mmWave an unrealistic solution in suburban and rural areas, China’s massive 5G infrastructure has created opportunity for 5G mmWave commercialization. Meng says, “mmWave can unleash the full potential of 5G with its higher bandwidth, massive capacity and lower latency.” He continues, citing Qualcomm’s recent showcase of the technology “At the MWC Shanghai in February 2021, we collaborated with GSMA, China Unicom, ZTE and many other Chinese companies to build the 5G mmWave Zone, which showcased the extreme performance and rich applications for winter sports enable by 5G mmWave. In May 2021, we achieved the world’s first DSUUU frame structure-based 5G mmWave 8K video upstreaming demonstration over the 26GHz band through lab testing together with ZTE, China Unicom and TVU Networks. This milestone demonstrated the 5G mmWave-enabled enhanced uplink capabilities that can support many scenarios such as livestreaming in large sports events and uplink bandwidth-hungry venues like stadiums.”
Another recent example of Qualcomm’s efforts in smart sports is ping-pong. Meng says, “Ping-pong is where our 5G and AI technology shines in enabling smart sports. Based on the Qualcomm Robotics RB5, the world’s first robot platform supporting 5G and AI, we helped Future Mind, a Shanghai-based developer of robots, to build their robot ping-pong training system, which has been widely used in ping-pong training. The system can be coordinated with the ball-serving robot to realize the real-time evaluation of athletes’ training status, so that the whole system can dynamically adjust the training strategy just like human coaches.” Meng notes that Qualcomm is currently working to further collaborate with Future Mind and Shanghai University of Sport (SUS) to empower the development of smart sports with technologies including 5G and AI.
“We are rapidly moving toward a world where everything and everyone can be intelligently connected.”
Gaming Industry Predictions
A common topic of discussion has been around the impact of China’s new gaming restrictions for minors. The new restrictions announced in August 2021 limit the time under-18s can spend gaming online. But, Meng does not seem too concerned about the future of the industry, saying, “Today, there are over 3 billion gamers around the world and a majority of them are mobile gamers. Smartphone games account for over 50% of all video gaming revenue worldwide and continue to grow year over year.”
While the gaming studios and publishers are the decision makers as far as what titles will be introduced to which market following the local policy, Meng says Qualcomm aims to provide the most innovative technologies and the most powerful platforms for global OEMs and developers create immersive desktop-level gaming experiences for gamers on top of the Snapdragon. He remains confident in their ability to adapt, saying, “We have been dedicated to delivering the premium experiences and leading-edge performance in all aspects with our expertise. Therefore, we can always provide a solid technical foundation for our partners to help them meet the needs of users in diverse scenarios, no matter mobile gaming and entertainment, or working and studying.”
An Intelligently Connected Future
Depending on where it resides, AI takes on different forms. Meng notes, “We are rapidly moving toward a world where everything and everyone can be intelligently connected, in order for AI to scale, we need to ensure that intelligence is widely distributed across the network.”
Distributed Intelligence is an approach Qualcomm has been working on to take AI to the next level. Meng explains, “Distributed intelligence is the result of AI processing that happens jointly on the device, edge cloud, and/or central cloud processing, and means that the intelligence is being created from running the AI algorithms in multiple locations by splitting the processing workloads. A low-latency, high-reliability, and high-capacity link is essential for enabling distributed intelligence and allowing workloads to be processed in the most appropriate place. This is why 5G is so important for enabling distributed intelligence for a variety of use cases, such as XR and the factory of the future.”
Today, Meng says, “More intelligence is moving to end devices, and mobile is becoming the pervasive AI platform.” He continues, “AI touches almost every aspect of the smartphone experience, from photography to voice recognition to security. We believe AI will soon bring entirely new dimensions to the mobile experience, including greater personalization, increased interactivity, and more contextual relevance.” He points out that video streaming and entertainment apps are already using facial and movement tracking to understand content preferences and provide highly relevant suggestions. He goes on, “Augmented Reality will change the way we see and interact with the world around us. And with enhanced gesture and natural language processing capabilities, we’ll have more intuitive ways to interact with our devices, apps, and content. Gaming experiences will become even more immersive and exciting, with games dynamically adjusting to our skill level to keep us challenged and engaged.”
Qualcomm recently introduced their latest mobile platform, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Meng says it is their most powerful mobile platform yet, “It continues to enhance all the experiences on the smartphone using AI. Featuring the 7th Gen Qualcomm AI Engine, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 brings enhanced AI capabilities to new and exciting areas, like security, health and fitness, and gaming on the device. We also made significant advances in the areas of language and image processing through our work with ecosystem partners.” He details, his hopes for the future, “With more than a decade of AI technology research and product development, we envision making AI ubiquitous, expanding beyond mobile and powering other devices, machines, vehicles, and things.”
Of course, the future implications of AI are almost boundless. Recently, Qualcomm has been working to expand and enrich their partnerships with China’s smart car industry. Meng observes, “The car is becoming a connected, intelligent computer on wheels, and this is where the Qualcomm model makes the difference. We are now working with more than 25 global leading automakers to provide a horizontal platform with the digital technology they need.”
Particularly in China, Qualcomm is working to support the automotive industry to accelerate their smart mobility with digital cockpit, connected vehicles, and greater autonomy. Meng says of their progress, “Over the past two years, Chinese auto companies have launched more than 20 models that are equipped with Snapdragon Digital Chassis, our system-level solution to drive partners’ continued innovation in the automotive industry.” Qualcomm’s collaboration with Chinese auto industry partners includes: Great Wall Motor, NIO and Human Horizon; and they have participated in China’s large-scale C-V2X application test and demonstration for 3 years to pave the way for C-V2X rollouts; and the C-V2X chipset enables Hongqi E-HS9, the world’s first commercialized vehicle featuring LTE-V2X technology. Meng explains, “Our Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms are enabling many Chinese automakers to create the new generation of in-vehicle experiences. In ADAS, Great Wall Motor will use the Snapdragon Ride Platform to build its advanced intelligent driving system of high computing power and adopt the system in its premium production vehicles starting in 2022.”