ST Liew President of Taiwan & Southeast Asia, Qualcomm
Let’s start with something simple. At the Smart City and IoT Summit in Taipei, you said that the impact of 5G broadband would be as big as the invention of electricity. How so?
I think the paradigm shift that we all have to get used to with 5G is that it’s no longer just a “G” thing. It’s not like 3G to 4G where you saw the smartphone become the de facto ambassador of the service. 5G is much, much more than that. In fact, a lot of the things that 5G will enable are beyond the smartphone; things that you as a consumer won’t even see, but will benefit from.
The factory that utilises 5G for their intelligent IoT system that makes your product at the end of the day, down to the supermarket or department store where your experience of shopping will be different. If you asked me to sit down and articulate what is possible on 5G, I couldn’t do that, because a lot of these things are not even there yet, simply because 5G touches on so many things. And that is why I say it’s like electricity.
What are some of these things 5G will enable beyond smartphones?
Well for instance, in some emergency medical cases where the doctor cannot be there. By using very high resolution, high definition video, real time communication and AR/VR (technologies), a doctor right here in Singapore could be diagnosing and guiding (a procedure) of a patient hundreds of miles away. These are cases that can only happen once big broadband and the latency problem are solved by 5G.
Colin Wilcock, the chairman of the European 5G Infrastructure Association said that 5G would be the bedrock of modern digital society, but it will not be created by the systems that are deployed this year or even next year, but a diﬀerent version of 5G. What do you think of that?
I’m almost certain that what he said is that a lot of the possibilities 5G will bring, we haven’t even started to fathom yet. Simply because like
…a lot of the things that 5G will enable are beyond the smartphone; things that you as a consumer won’t even see, but will benefit from.
if you look at the 5G standard, it goes from narrowband IoT all the way the millimetre wave. The whole reason why it started that way is so that there can be a seamless, unified system that can eventually work with each other.
It will be the foundation for technologies that will evolve when new use cases are being conceived. For example, we have people talking to us (Qualcomm) from industries that have nothing to do with phones or electronics; the fashion people, the garbage collecting people, the factory people that make rivets or sewing machines. They have zero idea what “G” means. All they want is to solve a problem.
And guess what are the underlying technologies and enablers that can facilitate the solutions to solve his or her problems?
Absolutely. Yes. One big area I think 5G will bring—because the use cases are so broad—is that a lot of smart people and smart companies can package these (solutions) for other companies that have no idea how to use technology to solve their problems. You’ll be surprised how many mom and pop shops have no idea how to connect to the cloud. Having a solution and being able to package it for them is a service that I think 5G will open up.
OK, so I agree that the true potential of 5G is beyond the phone, but I feel this concept eludes the average person. With 4G today, I’m already able to stream in Full HD and have a big enough data cap that I don’t even bother with Wi-Fi anymore, is 5G really going to bring that big an improvement to me?
The phrase I like to say is ‘to make the ordinary extraordinary’. If it is like a decimal improvement, I will say that the realisation might not be there. But (5G) is not a decimal improvement, it is multiple times improvement. Speed will improve by 5 to 10 times, latency will improve by 7 to 10 times, throughput will improve, etc. etc. I am an optimist to think that it will happen and the consumer will realise that.
Everyone knows Qualcomm from your Snapdragon chips, but how is Qualcomm driving the 5G future with?
Good question. So like I said earlier, 5G is about technology, and the foundation of that technology? We’re building that. Over the last 30 years, we have always been inventing something. And we want to take these inventions and benefit the maximum number of users.
We also evangelise use cases. In the 5G world, where possibilities have expanded, we have many multiple different business groups that focus on the several very key areas where we believe will blossom, from automotive such as self-driving cars to industrial IoT. We talk to people and understand their problems, match make potential equipment makers and solution providers. That’s what Qualcomm is doing besides just selling chipsets.
We play a very important role by, number one, providing the hardware software solution. And number two, we evangelise what is possible to solve problem statements that exist around the world.
That sounds very grandiose, but yeah.