Mobile/Wireless Components

Qualcomm Eyes Early Arrival for 5G Networks

Qualcomm's CEO says that a future 5G will be good for the chipmaker, as current 3G and 4G silicon sales -- particularly in China -- helped the chipmaker bolster its recent upward earnings trend and trounce Wall Street expectations for its fiscal third quarter.

For the spring quarter, Qualcomm's revenue was up 4% year-on-year at $6 billion. This translated to profit of $1.4 billion -- or $0.97 a share -- up from $1.2 billion, or $0.73 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected EPS of $0.97 on revenue of $5.58 billion.

CEO Steve Mollenkopf was clearly happy with the results on the chipmaker's earnings call Thursday afternoon. Qualcomm is also cutting costs and says it is on track to shave $1.4 billion off its annual run rate.

Mellonkopf says that the San Diego, Calif.-based chipmaker is now boosting investment in 5G, as it looks ahead to the next-gen wireless technology. "In general, we're obviously trying to drive 5G as hard we can... It's a good story for Qualcomm over the next decade," the CEO said.

For all the latest news on 5G, visit the dedicated 5G site here on Light Reading.

He noted that the timetable for the arrival of 5G networks seems to be moving ahead faster now. "If you'd have asked me a year ago I'd have closer to 2020, but there’s been a real pull to push that in closer to 2018-2019, depending on the deployment," Mollenkopf said. (See SK Telecom Targets Pre-Commercial 5G Deployment In 2017.)

Fixed wireless 5G test pilot networks are expected as early as 2017 now, although fully mobile commercial network deployments of 5G networks are still expected around 2019-2020. (See 5G: The Fixed [Wireless] Is In!.)

Ahead of that, Qualcomm is promoting its "Gigabit LTE" chipsets as a way for operators to get a taste of where 5G will eventually take networks. The chips are sampling now; very early products may arrive late in 2016, with a wider rollout in 2017. (See New Qualcomm Chip Promises 'Gigabit' 4G.)

The X16 Snapdragon uses a 4x4 smart antenna array and takes advantage of operators' ability to bond disperate radio channels together, otherwise known as carrier aggregation, to get faster 4G LTE performance.

Qualcomm says, however, that operators will need to implement 4-band carrier aggregation to hit gigabit speeds.

Qualcomm shares are up nearly 7% in after-hours trading at $55.82 each on the positive earnings report.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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