5G will gradually reach the lower ranges, and this will allow the technology to expand massively. When can we expect Qualcomm processors in these segments?

As you can imagine, I can’t answer this question. However, if you look back, you will see that 4G – which by the way took much longer to be adopted – started in the premium range and ended in the entry-level. Today our entire chip portfolio incorporates 4G, from the lowest to the highest.

I don’t know when 5G will be the case, but I am surprised at the speed with which both terminals and networks are being deployed and adopted.

Are the operators deploying 5G as fast as you expected or wanted?

5G is not a Qualcomm invention. It is a standard developed in conjunction with many agents. But when you invest in technology, you are pleased to see how the market adopts it.

We believed in 5G at the time, not only as an evolution of 4G, but as a disruption, as it offers a series of functionalities and benefits that enable various use cases. For years we have been working side by side on standards, we have invested in simulations, tests, demos… We have been announcing prototypes or 5G demonstrators since before the standard came out, more than two years ago at MWC. And our first 5G chip was ready for over a year.

We have invested time and resources together with the rest of the ecosystem and the market, in all humility, it has proved us and all those who believed that 5G was the path that we had to follow and that it had to be done as soon as possible because We were at risk of 4G falling short.

Thus, we believe that it is evolving as rapidly as we had hoped at the time. And the data shows it.

In the development of 5G there are several factors that influence, and one of them is the Government of Spain. How do you assess the role of the Government in the frequency bidding? Do you think they are being effective and contributing to the acceleration of 5G or, on the contrary, is the process going a bit slow compared to other countries?

In Spain, the 3.5 GHz spectrum was put out to tender almost a year ago. I do not have the exact data, but I think Spain was in the top 5 of the European countries in bidding for the radio spectrum of 3.5. In fact, it was put out to tender earlier than in Germany and much earlier than in France.

In this sense, the Spanish regulator moved quite decently compared to our environment. And especially taking into account all the changes in government that we have had in recent years, which I do not think that helped much to accelerate processes. However, even with that difficulty, I was satisfied that this continued to be seen as a priority by the two governments.

Regarding the 700 MHz band, it is true that it has not yet gone out to tender, but I think we are on par. There are countries that already have it, others that do not, but I see it a bit on a par. I imagine that the history of the digital dividend influences. But I believe that, if they follow the plans they have determined, we will be above the European average. It is my perception.

Regarding the 26 GHz band, only Italy has put it out to tender in Europe – and I know that other countries are analyzing it. I do not know when they will do it in Spain, but I trust that they will also do it at the same time. The sooner the better.

My feeling, therefore, is that the regulator has done quite well in this regard.

Why do you think that only one operator has decided to turn on their 5G network in Spain? Are the rest of the operators waiting for 5G SA, for the tender of new frequencies …? What is your perception?

I do not know the commercial, economic or conjuncture reasons of each one of them. At Qualcomm we work with all operators to help them in all technological aspects – such as the development of the network from the point of view of the terminal – so that when a computer with a Qualcomm processor is put up for sale, it works correctly in Vodafone, at Telefónica, at Orange, at MásMóvil … But the 5G announcement has much more to do with positioning, business strategy and marketing than with the technological state.

We work equally with all of them and our goal is that, when each of them decides to launch or announce it, the terminals with Qualcomm work just as well on the Vodafone network as on the Telefónica, Orange or MásMóvil network.

Almost eight months later, Vodafone’s 5G network underperformed, especially when it comes to coverage. Do you think it was a bit premature to launch a 5G network over a 3.5 GHz band instead of waiting for the 700 MHz tender or the arrival of new technologies?

Walker, there is no path, the path is made by walking. That is: you have to walk, you have to take steps. If not, you can’t know where to optimize. I insist that the decision to announce sooner or later depends on the context of each one, but I think it was very successful.

What is true – regardless of operator – is that the main problem we have with 5G is coverage. Especially in a country like Spain, where we are used to having coverage everywhere, even when we go to the Pyrenees.

Technologies such as Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, which already support chips like the Snapdragon 865, are going to improve 5G coverage. Not with the speed of the 3.5 GHz bands, much less the speed of the millimeter bands, but they will help speed up the expansion of coverage.

I understand that this is a factor that the occasional operator will have made to wait a little bit, because the people who complain the most is the coverage. But I don’t think that we have to wait for the 700 MHz band. The 700 MHz band is not going to allow us to savor 5G in crowded, more intense areas or where there is more traffic. The band of 700 will allow us to enjoy 5G in the most remote places, but not in the cities, in the soccer stadiums, in the places where there are large congregations of people or in the industrial sectors, which are demanding in latency and download. So I don’t think you have to wait for the 700 MHz band to get started with 5G, because its use is different.

I think it is wise to deploy 3.5 GHz immediately; evolve current LTE networks (with the current radio spectrum used for LTE) and take advantage of them for 5G, which will allow increasing coverage; and of course the 700 Mhz band is very successful to go even further. In addition, it would put on the table the success that would be able to put the millimeter band to tender for those areas that are smaller in size or distance but more intensive in demand.

Regarding DSS, technology that allows 5G to work on 4G bands and that you already support in the Snapdragon 865, what would operators have to do to support this technology? Does it require a lot of effort?

In theory it is not excessively complex, but it depends on each one of them. In a network upgrade process, all operators first test it in the labs and then begin to roll it out. Operators have not started testing DSS now, they have been around for a while. Therefore, I do not know when they will decide to give the announcement or communicate the subject, but we are at the moment when one or the other will take the step.

The United States is taking a different path than Europe, giving priority to mmWave gangs. Why is he doing this instead of the under-6, which seems like a more logical path in the short term? What benefits do you think this band brings beyond the industries?

Regarding why the Americans have put out a frequency band and not another, I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what use they are making of the 3.5 or 3.6 GHz band. I don’t know if it is assigned or freely available. The occupation of the frequency bands of the United States is very different from that of Europe.

From a more technical point of view, there is a pragmatic reason. In the United States, they do not have as much fiber, so operators began to value 5G as a way to provide fixed access to homes and supply fiber optics in the last few meters.

Once you deploy for this use case, what has been shown in the United States is that the millimeter band offers added value in terms of absorbing large volumes of traffic not only in companies, but in train stations, in interchanges, in convention centers, in soccer stadiums … Places where there is a great demand for punctual data but neither Wi-Fi nor LTE can offer a satisfactory experience.

So, I think it has been a bit of the juncture of all these things.

In the short term, which path do you think makes the most sense? Start with the millimeter band or go to the sub-6? Because I intuit that it is easier for the user to perceive 5G with these last bands.

If I want to maintain a homogeneous 5G experience, I need millimeter band in areas where there is high demand, sub6 band where there is less demand (or even LTE) and the 700 MHz band in rural areas. I need everything to maintain a smooth user experience.

Which one do i start with? Well, it depends a little on the regulator and the spectrum you have available. In Spain, the response has been the 3.5 or 3.6 GHz band. Obviously it is easier to give better coverage in that band than in the millimeter band, which requires additional effort in terms of small cell deployment. It seems to me correct that in Spain, that we have fiber to the home, we have followed these steps, and I do not question what they have done in the United States, where they have gone first to the millimeter for other reasons.

In Spain, operators did a pretty good job with 4G. In fact, the network is so good that there are many users who argue that the change to 5G is not very noticeable. If they do the Speedtest, they get 600 Mbps in the palm of their hand, but, on a daily basis, they do not find use cases that allow squeezing this new connectivity. Is 5G being promoted too soon?

4G was born to increase the demand and download speed of 3G. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to send a video, stream photos, or store things in the cloud.

Almost ten years later, now we see 4G and say “this connectivity allowed me to do this.” But at that time there were probably a lot of people who didn’t understand why we needed 4G either. In fact, many 3G phones were still being sold.

So I would tell you to ask me this same question in ten years. Or even within 5. Because then I think we will recognize that we needed 5G and that we needed it now.

Many operators have decided to withdraw or alter Huawei’s participation in their networks following the guidelines of the European Union. This process, obviously, involves extra investments that the operators did not initially have planned. Do you think that this additional outlay and the absence of a provider as important as Huawei can slow down the deployment of 5G in Europe or will operators be able to overcome it?

In the end there is a demand and it will be the user who pulls and who forces to deploy faster, to get new terminals or to invest in new technologies. It is the market demand that is going to make efficient or not any investment you make. So if the market pulls or demands, operators are not going to mind changing technology or doing what they have to do.

If the market doesn’t shoot, well, maybe they question any investment. But it is the market that pulls and it is the user that demands new services and so on.