News Feature | December 11, 2018

The Week In 5G: 12/11/2018 – Qualcomm Bringing 5G To PCs, Japan Slams Door On Huawei, 5G Huge For eSports

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq


Qualcomm is developing a computing platform for "always-connected" 5G PCs, planned initially for enterprise clients in 2019.

Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm President, told media at the Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii that corporate CIOs are expected to provide this type of PC to workers to connect them in private 5G networks. These private networks have the potential to make manufacturing operations faster and more efficient. Sanjay Mehta, Qualcomm’s SVP and GM of Computer Products, said the first 5G-capable PCs might be available as early as next year, reported RCR Wireless. Mehta added that it makes sense for Qualcomm to leverage its expertise as a smartphone chipmaker into "adjacent businesses" in the 5G era.

Related, Qualcomm just scored a victory over its erstwhile partner, Apple, as a Chinese court granted an injunction against Apple in a patent infringement lawsuit, reported CNN. The suit alleged that Apple infringed two of Qualcomm's patents in all but the three latest iPhone models. The ban on iPhones cover about 10 to 15 percent of current iPhone sales in China. Apple — unlikely to make 5G-connected iPhones with Intel chips until 2020 — vowed to fight the court ruling.

China was widely expected to make Apple — which bases its labor and supply chain in China — a key bargaining chip in its escalating trade war against the United States. The situation appeared to ease as the two countries made a 90-day trade truce recently, but things took a turn for the worse this week when Canadian authorities held Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the U.S.

Huawei has been locked out of the U.S. market since August after being accused as a de facto spy for Beijing, a claim Huawei vehemently denies. Since then, U.S. allies Australia and New Zealand also have banned Huawei from helping telcos building 5G networks in their countries.

Now, add Japan to the growing list. This week, Japan’s big three telecom operators announced they will not use 5G equipment from Huawei and another Chinese firm, ZTE, according to Kyodo News/Reuters. SoftBank — which has the deepest ties to Huawei, including conducting 5G use case trials and using pre-existing Huawei network equipment — reportedly is considering its options.

Despite Huawei's legal troubles, China is pressing full steam ahead with its nationwide commercial 5G rollout in 2020. The central government awarded the country's top three carriers — China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom — with 5G spectrum licenses to conduct final 5G trials, reported the South China Morning Post. Unicom and China Telecom each were allocated 100 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.5-gigahertz to 3.6 GHz bands and 3.4 GHz to 3.5 GHz bands, respectively. China Mobile was allocated 160 MHz of spectrum at 2.6 GHz.

Still, the Huawei executive's extradition process and a looming US export ban on Huawei will hurt China.

“If that happens, it will be a serious setback to China’s 5G timeline, and it will also significantly weaken China’s bargaining position in the trade negotiations [with the US],” Jefferies equity analyst Edison Lee said in a report, according to the South China Morning Post. “China [is] unlikely [to] want to build 5G without Huawei. To get Huawei out of such an export ban, the US is likely to ask for concessions in China’s tech subsidy and Buy China policy in various industries, including telecoms.”

Meanwhile, Australian regulators netted $853 million in its 3.6 GHz spectrum auction, which covered 14 regions nationally across 350 lots, reported The Sydney Morning Herald. Telstra spent $386 million for 143 lots. Optus bought 47 lots for $185.1 million, while Dense Air Australia bought 29 lots for $18.5 million. TPG Telecom and Vodafone Hutchison Australia, who put out a joint bid, paid $263.3 million for 131 lots.

“The 60 MHz holdings the JV has secured in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Canberra give us a strong 5G spectrum capability in each of these major cities,” Vodafone chief executive Iñaki Berroeta, said in a statement. “Launching a new generation mobile network is a multi-layered evolutionary process which involves much more than putting some new antennas on poles, and we are progressing all elements of our 5G plans.”

Vodafone won't have to put 5G antennas on poles, anyway. Apparently, the company has found a way to hide small cells under manhole covers to avoid outcry over what some describe as "ugly and unsafe" 5G equipment. Working with Ericsson, Vodafone plans to attach 4G/5G antennas underneath cast iron manhole covers that radiate wireless signals upwards from ground level, reported Venture Beat. Manhole-based antennas could become viable alternatives to traditional towers in enabling autonomous vehicles, connected-city infrastructure, and industrial applications.

South Korean companies already are looking at how 5G can improve construction practices. SK Telecom, Hyundai Construction Equipment, and Trimble this week announced a partnership to develop 5G-enabled solutions for remote construction equipment monitoring, real-time safety management, and AI-based construction operations, according to ZD Net.

Engineers are experimenting with various antenna designs to more effectively propagate 5G signals. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for instance, are developing a new measurement-based method that allows system designers and engineers to evaluate the most appropriate antenna beamwidths for real environments. Engineers will be able to select an antenna that best suits a specific application. For example, the engineer may choose a beamwidth that is narrow enough to avoid reflections off certain surfaces, or that allows multiple antennas to coexist in a given environment without interference — a known challenge in mmWave technology. NIST hopes its method will boost 5G network capacity and cut costs.

5G promises ultra-fast network speeds and minimal latencies, which will help video developers to rewrite the rules for eye-popping, graphics-rich, multiplayer action. Specifically, it will propel the potential $1 billion esports industry to greater heights. Esports, which conduct online, multiplayer competitions, are followed by 300 million people worldwide. With 5G technology enabling streaming games at more than 100 frames per second with imperceptible lag times, game developers will not be constrained by hardware limitations any longer.

“We enable you to use any app or any game on any device,” said Ian McLoughlin, CEO of LiquidSky, a virtualization firm and partner in Verizon’s 5G Lab in New York City. “You don’t buy a game console; you don’t buy a PC. You just stream it. High bandwidth and low latency are incredibly important in what we do. Verizon has helped us accelerate both of those things dramatically.”