NTT and Qualcomm bet heavily on 5G

With 5G just around the corner, these companies are investing heavily in the tech.
13 November 2018

PCB Processing on CNC machine. Source: Shutterstock

NTT has announced a significant investment over the next five years into researching next-generation 5G mobile communications networks. The move will be a part of a ¥3 trillion ($26.3 billion) injection into the company’s research activities.

The Japanese communications giant, a third of which is owned by the Japanese government, has announced its medium-term strategy, which includes its intention to strengthen its overseas businesses by reorganizing its foreign-based business units. Furthermore, the company says it will cut ¥800 billion ($7 billion) from operating costs over the next five years.

On October 31 this year, NTT Docomo said it will lower its domestic mobile phone costs for users by between 20 and 40 percent from April 2019, after the Japanese government called for lower fees. The company’s competitors are expected to follow suit.

In an unrelated move, Qualcomm is expected to increase its relationship with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) for the production of HPC (high-performance computing) chips, specifically for 5G, IoT, and AI applications.

Industry sources have stated that the company will shortly release the next generation of the Snapdragon system-on-chip, the 8-series, which is made using a 7nm process by TSMC.

Qualcomm intends to establish a dedicated research and design center for 5G, as well as a millimeter-wave (mmWave) test center and an R&D facility dedicated to biometric identification technologies in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan. The combined facilities are to be known as the Center for Operations, Manufacturing Engineering and Testing (COMET) and will act as Qualcomm’s operations hub in APAC.

According to an article in DigiTimes, Qualcomm’s workforce in Taiwan is expected to increase 10-fold to support the research and development operations in the country. The 7nm manufacturing capability is thought to be superseded in future generations by 5nm and 3nm processes, which are already in the pipeline.

Snapdragon processors for mobile devices. Source: Qualcomm

New semiconductor processes and architectures have made mmWave technology the de facto choice for the next generation of 5G communications networks — the industry was initially concentrating on sub 6 GHz technology such as massive MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output). In the US, Verizon and AT&T are undertaking mmWave field trials in several cities, and Samsung, in partnership with Arquiva, is testing similar technology in the UK.

DigiTimes quoted Roawen Chen, SVP of Manufacturing Technology and Operations for Qualcomm, as saying the 5G module research and design center will develop plug-and-play solutions that lower barriers to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to enter the 5G market without needing huge investment.