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mmWave 5G is here to stay, Qualcomm exec says

High-capacity millimeter wave spectrum may have range limitations, but it will play an important role in multiband strategies and is poised to support a broad range of use cases, Qualcomm's Don McGuire says.

Jeff Baumgartner

October 27, 2021

2 Min Read
mmWave 5G is here to stay, Qualcomm exec says

LOS ANGELES – MWC LA – Despite its range limitations, high-capacity millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum will remain an important component of multi-band 5G networks that will beam services to smartphones and other devices and support a wide array of use cases, a Qualcomm exec said here Tuesday.

Millimeter wave spectrum is part of a "layer cake" of multiple frequency bands that, taken together, will provide a complementary blend of speed, capacity and reach, Don McGuire, chief marketing officer at Qualcomm, said during a sit-down session here. That layer cake descriptor has become a popular way for mobile carriers, such as T-Mobile, to describe how they intend to deploy 5G across low, mid and high spectrum bands.

"It's going to take all flavors of 5G, including millimeter wave," to bring 5G to smartphones and other types of devices and markets, McGuire explained.

Among examples, Verizon is using mmWave technology today for its 5G Home fixed wireless access service and will soon start to add midrange C-band spectrum to the platform.

While that will help to drive broadband into rural areas, McGuire said other use cases for mmWave are becoming more apparent, including its use for "unlocking the shareable experience for people." By that, he means providing capacity in sports stadiums and other types of venues, referencing a collaboration between Qualcomm and Live Nation to support mmWave networks at concerts and enhance live events.

He also expects mmWave to play a greater role in enterprise applications for private network services that require high reliability and super-low latencies, outlining examples such as online healthcare and V2X (vehicle-to-everything) connectivity.

In addition, McGuire expects mmWave to be highly present in unlicensed spectrum, including the 60GHz band. That, he said, "is going to be great for some of these use cases, like private networks."

Time will tell if mmWave lives up to the potential that McGuire envisions. But it would appear that mmWave's best days are still out on the horizon somewhere. OpenSignal reported in July that Verizon's smartphone customers connect to a mmWave 5G network only 0.7% of the time, while T-Mobile customers do the same just 0.2% of the time.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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