• By Lisa Wang / Staff reporter

Qualcomm Inc expects global shipments of 5G smartphones to more than double to between 450 million and 550 million units next year from this year, driven by increasing 5G network deployment worldwide and broader adoption of 5G technology beyond smartphones, a company executive told a virtual news conference yesterday.

The San Diego-based company said that more than five times more telecoms have commercially launched 5G services in the first 18 months of the 5G era, compared with wireless technology transitions to previous generations.

The momentum is to pick up speed in 2022, with the shipment volume of 5G-ready smartphones projected to reach 750 million units, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon told reporters following the release of the company’s latest flagship 5G chip, Snapdragon 888.

Photo: Vanessa Cho, Taipei Times

To address the growing market, Qualcomm would build a broad product portfolio of end devices at prices between US$250 and US$1,000, the company said.

There are more than 700 5G designs that have thus far been launched or are under development based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips, Amon said.

A majority of them supports the sub-6 gigahertz band, he said, adding that Qualcomm’s strength goes beyond millimeter Wave (mmWave) technology.

Qualcomm is positive for the deployment of mmWave networks, as 5G technology is getting more broadly adopted in Japan, with more mmWave-based services to be offered next year, Amon said.

Qualcomm also has high hopes that China would build mmWave networks for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, he said.

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Asked whether Qualcomm might be able to resume shipping 5G chips to Chinese customers, as US president-elect Joe Biden might take a more rational stance in the US-China trade dispute, Amon did not directly answer.

Chipsets have been driving 5G growth in China, and that would likely continue, he said.

Qualcomm’s business model of forging cooperation with Chinese customers creates more business opportunities, Amon said.

The company is pleased to see the emergence of new industry participants such as Honor (榮耀), he added.

Honor was originally a budget smartphone brand of Huawei Technologies Co (華為). Huawei last month sold Honor to a consortium formed by the Shenzhen Smart City Technology Development Group Co (深圳智慧城市科技發展集團) in a bid to refute a US ban.

Qualcomm did not disclose whether it would switch its foundry partner for the production of the new chip to Samsung Electronics Co, using the South Korean firm’s 5-nanometer technology.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) produced Qualcomm’s previous generation of 5G chip, Snapdragon 865, using its 7-nanometer technology.

Qualcomm said that it takes about three years to design and develop premium chips until production can start.

The company in the past started talking to its foundry partners about two-and-half years prior to production, it said.

Fourteen mobile phone makers have shown their interest in Qualcomm’s latest premium chip and Xiaomi Corp’s (小米) new flagship smartphone, Mi11, is to be one of the first devices powered by the Snapdragon 888.

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