A homegrown revolution
The next generation of wireless technology, 5G, is being developed in the U.S.—and is set to transform life as we know it.

This is the first release in a four-part series about Qualcomm’s role in realizing the future of 5G.

In January, the chip maker and technology innovator Qualcomm made a remarkable announcement: The company was partnering with an American automaker to help cars communicate. The duo would work to roll out technology that would enable vehicles to link with smart traffic infrastructure, road sensors, and even bicycles—all with the goal of making cities safer and more efficient. These smart cars would be able to sync with street lights to reduce congestion and even predict collisions before they happen.

But to do that, you need a pretty powerful signal.

That’s where Qualcomm comes in. The company is a leader in developing and commercializing technologies for what’s known as 5G, the next-generation wireless network. With commercial launches expected to start in 2019, 5G is set to unleash a revolution in digital innovation. Both stronger and faster than 4G, its predecessor, the enhanced platform provides the foundation to build everything from smart transportation to high-definition virtual reality. It’s a seismic breakthrough for the San Diego-based inventor—one that can drive economic and entrepreneurial transformation for decades to come.

Connectivity is at the heart of modern life. Smart phones allow people to socialize with their friends from a touchscreen. Laptops and other devices have fundamentally altered business, turning any place with Internet into an office. Streaming services deliver entertainment on-demand while retail commerce can stretch across time zones and borders.

For over 30 years, Qualcomm has enabled all of this, with inventions like CDMA and then LTE that laid the foundation for next generation technologies. As more and more industries and devices are connected via mobile networks, Qualcomm is pioneering many new technologies to meet 5G’s expanded and radically diverse connectivity needs for the next decade.

“Wireless coverage is becoming as important as electricity,” said Durga Malladi, senior vice president of engineering at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “We expect 5G to be everywhere to spur innovation through a unifying connectivity fabric.”

Today, Qualcomm is funneling its decades of experience into realizing this next-generation infrastructure. As compared to 4G, 5G has the potential to offer quicker Internet for users, increasing connectivity and allowing for more devices to communicate simultaneously.

These breakthroughs have the potential to generate huge economic gains across the United States. Retail-heavy urban centers will benefit as 5G improves the in-store experience and expands virtual shopping for customers. Meanwhile, emerging tech hubs like San Diego and Austin will continue to flourish as improved wireless sparks start-up innovation. The Rust Belt will even be revitalized as connected factories are able to boost production and improve workforce safety. In all, the transition to 5G is expected to boost global GDP growth by $3 trillion dollars and produce over 20 million jobs around the world by 2035, according to a recent study commissioned by Qualcomm.

“[5G] will be the vehicle for technical innovations on multiple fronts,” noted Swarun Kumar, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He expects the advancement to usher in a new era of creativity from American entrepreneurs. One area where he sees the potential for major improvements is in immersive tech and high-definition video, with applications that extend beyond gaming and entertainment. Imagine a future where an architect, wearing a VR headset, could see a building as it was being designed? Another sector ripe for innovation is the Internet of Things (IoT), which can benefit from the ability to connect more devices and crunch more data. Here the possibilities that arise from the availability of 5G infrastructure are vast—everything from highly-efficient smart power grids to hospital monitoring systems.

These types of breakthroughs can also significantly impact the urban centers of tomorrow. The stronger network can form the foundation for a range of smart city components that go well beyond connected cars. Skyscrapers can leverage 5G to monitor and optimize their own energy consumption, city health inspectors could digitize water infrastructure to test for lead in real-time and cars will be able to link with smart infrastructure to find parking spaces faster.

Put simply, we’re on the cusp of a transformational period of American innovation—but one that can’t fully be realized without more capable, adaptable technologies and infrastructure. And Qualcomm, with its homegrown experience in inventing the best in wireless technologies, is the type of enterprise that can deliver on this promise.

“We’ve been working on 5G for a long time and see exciting opportunities in this space,” said Malladi.