Qualcomm Lines Up Chinese Wave for 5G Smartphones

Dan Jones
1/25/2018

Qualcomm is busy getting Chinese smartphone vendors on board with its "5G Pioneer" program in Beijing, as Xiaomi, Lenovo, OPPO and Vivo announced agreements Thursday to buy a total of $2 billion worth of 4G and 5G components over the next three years.

The announcements came as Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) is trying to shake off an unsolicited $105 billion bid from Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) Qualcomm shareholders will get to vote on the bid on March 6 by keeping the existing board or kicking them to the curb. (See Broadcom Wants to Kill Qualcomm's Licensing Business – Report.)

The vendor, meanwhile, is also locked in a legal battle with smartphone giant Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), which doesn't want to pay what it regards as Qualcomm's excessive licensing fees. Apple is also reportedly grooming Intel as its main 5G modem provider, for devices that could arrive in 2020 or thereabouts. (See Apple in Hiring Frenzy for 5G Device Design.)

So a move to highlight its 5G activities in the world's largest mobile market, China, makes sense for Qualcomm.

On Thursday, the vendor held the 2018 Qualcomm China Tech Day in Beijing. At the event, Qualcomm and major Chinese manufacturers "expressed interest in working together in an initiative to support China's smartphone industry for ... 5G commercial devices expected as early as 2019," calling it the "5G Pioneer" Initiative.

Lenovo, OPPO Mobile, vivo Communication Technology, Wingtech, Xiaomi and ZTE are on board so far. "These companies aim to accelerate the availability of commercial 5G premium tier devices expected in 2019," Qualcomm said in a statement.

Xiaomi, Lenovo, OPPO, and Vivo have also signed memorandums of understanding that they will buy $2 billion worth of RF front-end components for 4G and 5G from Qualcomm. An RF front-end sits between the antenna and the baseband in a chipset, converting analog signals to digital.

RF front-end design is becoming increasingly important for the 5G era as manufacturers need to support even more frequencies for global products that must, in turn, support multiple 4G and 5G bands, at the least. Qualcomm is pushing its tuneable 5G RF front-end, promising "wider frequency range, greater capacity, enhanced coverage and cutting-edge power efficiency to address 4G LTE Advanced technology demands, as well as upcoming 5G networks."

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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