CES 2020: Qualcomm’s Amon Talks 5G Rollout, Use Cases

In a CES SuperSession led by Marketplace Tech senior editor Molly Wood, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon talked about the 5G rollout and some of the less-discussed topics such as esoteric use cases. “We have a mature mobile landscape today,” he said. “We stream music rather than carry CDs around. Going forward, video will be mainly distributed on 5G. We’ll be able to distribute news and sports, and finally deliver on user-generated content. Everyone will become a broadcaster because you’ll have the speed.”

He added that Google, Microsoft and other tech platforms will also soon “reveal the future of gaming.” “It will go from console to mobile devices,” he predicted. Wood (below left with Amon, photos courtesy of CTA) asked him if the smartphone will evolve to another form factor. “I don’t think the phone will be replaced,” he answered. “But we believe at Qualcomm that it’s likely we’ll see companion devices.”

One of those “companion devices” he mentioned were eyeglasses enabling augmented reality. “You can walk into a meeting and recognize everyone with facial recognition,” he said. “You’ll be able to look at the social networks. The transformation will be enormous — it’s like a ‘Black Mirror’ episode.”

He pointed out that, with cloud computing and 5G, the only limitation is the size of the screen. This combination of factors will ignite the automotive industry, with a fundamental redesign of the navigation system and the ability to connect with other cars and pedestrians. “It will transform the car company into a cable operator, because they’ll be able to distribute content,” he said.

Wood asked about the progress of 5G-infrastructure deployment, and Amon said that, “the infrastructure companies like Samsung and Ericsson have been building on the technology.” “Same thing with the carriers,” he said. “Every day new markets light up with 5G. But it requires more towers and more sites, so you have to densify. In the U.S., they have to negotiate sometimes neighborhood by neighborhood, which takes time and slows the pace down. It will be important infrastructure, just like the power grid.”

In response to a question about the licensing of 5G technology, Amon noted that Qualcomm is “the opposite of a vertical company.” “We’ve been through a lot,” he said. “We’re happy with the stay, and we still have the FCC appeal. We’ll continue to build stability.”

“But 5G underscores the importance and validity of the Qualcomm licensing model,” he added. “Seller technology is going to many other industries. You need other industries to have access to build products. For that, we continue to see traction. And the end of the day, the industry understands that to build a horizontal market rather than a vertical company is the way to go.”