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5G Factor: Key MWC24 Takeaways – Semis and Devices

5G Factor: Key MWC24 Takeaways – Semis and Devices

In this episode of The 5G Factor, our series that focuses on all things 5G, the IoT, and the 5G ecosystem as a whole, I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst, Olivier Blanchard, for a look at the top 5G semiconductor and device takeaways from our conversations and sessions at Mobile World Congress 2024. The major takeaways we had included Micron’s UFS and memory portfolio innovations with the Samsung Galaxy S24 series showcasing new GenAI capabilities, Lenovo’s Integrated Edge AI Solution for Telco collaborations with Telefonica and Orange, Lenovo’s new ThinkPad and ThinkBook devices including transparent displays, new Mediatek Dimensity 9300 GenAI features, and Qualcomm’s portfolio-wide breakthroughs across AI, 5G, and Wi-Fi.

Our analytical review focused on:

Micron Delivers UFS, Memory Advances: Spurs Samsung Galaxy 24 AI Innovation. Micron announced that it is delivering qualification samples of an enhanced version of its Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 4.0 mobile solution with breakthrough proprietary firmware features delivered in an ultra-compact UFS package at 9×13 millimeters (mm). Built on its 232-layer 3D NAND and offering up to 1 terabyte (TB) capacity, the UFS 4.0 solution provides advances in performance that can enable faster and more responsive experiences on flagship smartphones. Samsung is now incorporating Micron’s low-power double data rate 5X (LPDDR5X) memory and UFS 4.0 mobile flash storage into select devices in the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, which is introducing AI to mobile users worldwide. The Galaxy S24 series is underpinned by Samsung’s suite of generative AI tools, Galaxy AI, which helps amplify experiences from enabling barrier-free communication to maximizing creative freedom. We assess how Micron’s LPDDR5X is a mobile-optimized memory distinguished by offering the advanced capabilities of the 1β (1-beta) process node, while Micron’s UFS 4.0 offers the performance and power needed to store growing amounts of data in today’s AI-driven smartphones.

Lenovo Readies Telcos for Edge AI Renaissance. To support the massive amount of computing moving to the edge, the company is offering Lenovo Integrated Edge AI Solutions for Telco with Lenovo’s ecosystem of partners. Highlights include new multi-cloud edge computing architecture with Telefonica tackles mission critical applications for smart cities, making it simple to leverage data throughout city streets in a wide array of AI use cases, including using video analytics and computer vision to identify smoke and fire, support public safety and improve emergency response times. We delve into how Telefonica leveraging its own Telco Cloud with the range of Lenovo ThinkEdge servers and Motorola’s push-to-talk technology, and is demonstrating through a proof of concept the capabilities of multi-cloud at the edge, AI, and computer vision to alert public safety officials of danger. The new solution orchestrates the entire edge-to-cloud ecosystem, weaving infrastructure, connectivity, and applications together to support public safety and enhance emergency response with real-time AI.

Plus, at MWC24, Lenovo unveiled and expanded the joint innovation partnership for telecom and cloud services to help Orange Group bring high performance and energy efficiency to telco clients worldwide. We appraise why the alliance can deliver telecom advancement, since Orange and Lenovo are also extending the partnership for three more years and launched a shared Sylva project validation center, addressing telco and edge use cases. The program will cover areas critical for evolving telecommunications infrastructure, including supporting operational efficiency, automation, and new open radio access.

Lenovo Transparently Energizes ThinkBook and ThinkPad Portfolio. On the device side, Lenovo launched brand new ThinkPad and ThinkBook business laptops – unveiling AI features that enhance productivity and efficiency – with performance enhancements and multi-mode versatility. Additionally, Lenovo introduced a selection of accessories designed to boost mobile productivity, including the ThinkVision M14t Gen 2 portable display, a USB-C Slim Travel Dock for comprehensive docking on-the-go, and a redesigned ThinkPad Executive 16-inch Backpack that allows for easy carrying of a mobile office. Rounding out the new hardware announcements are new software solutions, including Lenovo Identity Advisor, a digital identity monitoring tool and Smart Connect, a software that unlocks multi-device synergies. Finally, we review Lenovo showcasing a futuristic proof of concept laptop – the ThinkBook Transparent Display Laptop Concept – which features the industry’s first laptop with a 17.3-inch Micro-LED transparent display, providing a fully borderless and see-through display experience.

Mediatek Density 9300 GenAI: New Capabilities. MediaTek is a global fabless semiconductor firm supporting more than two billion connected edge devices every year, who showcased a series of new Generative AI demos, all of which are using the latest generation of APU hardware featured in the Dimensity 9300 flagship smartphone SoC. The new solution highlights several key Generative AI technologies enabled by MediaTek, including multiple new applications running entirely on-device. We examine the solution’s new capabilities such as SDXL Turbo, a text-to-image Stable Diffusion engine that dynamically generates images in real-time, based on user-provided prompts as well as Video Diffusion Generation, which enables fast video diffusion generation, capable of a range of animation styles.

Qualcomm Breaks Ground Across AI, 5G, and Wi-Fi. We saw Qualcomm demonstrating groundbreaking advancements in AI, 5G, and Wi-Fi that can spearhead a new era of intelligent computing everywhere, infusing AI throughout industries, devices, and consumer experiences. By unleashing the potential of AI, the fusion of on-device computing prowess and improved connectivity can empower businesses and individuals to unlock new use cases and applications. At MWC24, Qualcomm showcased on-device AI, intelligent computing, and wireless connectivity products and milestones, poised to accelerate digital transformation, drive a new wave of economic growth, and bring the convergence of AI and connectivity to new regions. We consider why Generative AI is expected to have a broad impact across industries, with estimates that it could add the equivalent of $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion to the world economy by 2040.

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Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Transcript:

Ron Westfall: Hello, and welcome everyone to The 5G Factor. I’m Ron Westfall, Research Director here at The Futurum Group. And I’m joined here today by my distinguished colleague, Olivier Blanchard, our Research Director focused on key areas such as devices and semiconductors, including 5G of course.

And today we’ll be focusing on the major 5G ecosystem developments that have caught our eye, which naturally means reviewing the key takeaways that we had from the Mobile World Congress 2024 event in Barcelona, which basically I think we can couple with providing somewhat of a preview for Mobile World Congress 2025, basically scooping, folks, by a mere 50 weeks. So a two for one combo, how’s that for value? And so Olivier, welcome back to The 5G Factor and many thanks for joining today. How have you been bearing up between episodes?

Olivier Blanchard: No, it’s been back to back things. So we had CES, then we had Mobile World Congress a week ago. I just came back from an HP event. So there’s a lot going on and it’s all interconnected, so I’m sure that we’ll get to that in a moment with today’s topics.

Ron Westfall: Right on. And, before we dive right in, I believe we have a special announcement to share. I understand you’re getting married next week, so congratulations.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes, thank you. I’m excited.

Ron Westfall: Whereabouts?

Olivier Blanchard: I usually say, “I’m psyched,” but it makes everybody laugh, so I’m excited about it and psyched.

Ron Westfall: Well again, kudos on that. You’re getting married in Charleston, South Carolina, if I recall?

Olivier Blanchard: Charleston, South Carolina. Yeah. So hopefully-

Ron Westfall: Outstanding.

Olivier Blanchard: … it’ll be nice. I know the food will be nice. So I’m really looking forward to it.

Ron Westfall: Right on.

Olivier Blanchard: It’ll be nice.

Ron Westfall: I’ll add value. I’ll compile a best of our 5G Factor podcast-

Olivier Blanchard: Excellent.

Ron Westfall: … for the lovely couple, kind of a wedding gift.

Olivier Blanchard: Thank you. Can’t wait.

Ron Westfall: Yes, when I presented that type of gift to my wife as an anniversary gift, she was speechless, so we’ll see.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah, I’m sure.

Ron Westfall: All right, well back to Mobile World Congress, which is now in our rearview mirror. However, we are going to spotlight the major announcements in the semiconductor and device segments that of course jumped out at us. And to start, let’s start with the analyst round table conversation we had with Microns Mobile Business Unit executives, including Mark Montierth, the corporate VP and general manager of MBU, and Chris Moore, VP of marketing at Micron’s MBU.

Now, during the show, Micron announced that it’s delivering qualification samples of an enhanced version of its universal flash storage or UFS 4.0 mobile solution with breakthrough proprietary firmware that delivers an ultra-compact UFS package at 9 x 13 millimeters, which is very important in this space. And to compliment that, it’s built on its 232 layer 3D NAND and offering up to one terabyte of capacity. So we’re talking terabytes in this area of the mobile ecosystem. And as such, the UFS 4.0 solution provides advances and performances as well as enabling faster and more responsive experiences on flagship smartphones, which certainly was a major point of interest at the show itself.

Now, Micron UFS 4.0 accelerates data-intensive experiences with up to 4,300 megabytes per second sequential read and 4,000 megabits per second sequential write speed, twice the performance of previous generations. With these speeds, users will be able to launch their favorite productivity and emerging AI apps more swiftly. Large language models and generative AI applications now can be loaded 40% faster, resulting in a smoother experience, I believe, when initializing conversations with AI digital companions. And I don’t think it’s been an adoption issue, but again, it’s improving that experience with the large language models, with being able to get more out of ChatGPT for example, in a more user-friendly and efficient way.

Now, working with Micron is Samsung who’s incorporating Microns low power double data rate 5X or LPDDR5X memory and UFS 4.0 mobile flash storage into select devices across the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, which is really introducing AI to mobile users worldwide. And we saw that the Galaxy S24 series is underpinned by Samsung suite of gen AI tools, Galaxy AI, which helps amplify experiences from enabling barrier free communication to also again, optimizing creative freedom for the users.

Now, as these data and energy intensive features push the limits of smartphone hardware capability, Micron’s LPDDR5X memory and UFS 4.0 storage provides critical high-performance capabilities and power efficiency to deliver these AI experiences at the edge. So edge AI, very much a hot topic and I know we’ll talk about that more in detail. Now, select Samsung Galaxy S24 devices across the S24 Ultra, S24 Plus, and S24 models are shipping with both those capabilities. And that is demonstrating, from our perspective, how Micron is really driving innovation across the smartphone product segment specifically. But again, the overall mobile AI ecosystem.

What I think it’s also important is that Micron’s LPDDR5X is a mobile-optimized memory distinguished by offering the advanced capabilities of the one beta process node. So here we are talking semiconductors. We should of course mention the process node capability here. And while Micron’s UFS 4.0 offers a performance and power needed to store growing amounts of data in today’s AI driven smartphones, I think it’s also important to note that Micron announced it has begun volume production of its HBM3E, which stands for high bandwidth memory 3E solution. And why is that a big deal? Because Micron’s 24 gigabyte 8H HBM3E will be part of NVIDIA H210 core GPUs, which will begin shipping just in the next quarter of Q2 2024.

Now, we see this milestone as positioning Micron to further empower AI solutions with HBM3E’s performance and energy efficiency features. And of course driving NVIDIA, we believe will be important in how the market as well as the ecosystem perceives Micron and its strengthening position in terms of, for example, AI capabilities. And that includes certainly AI on the smartphone and devices. And with that, I’m going to stop talking about Micron, the introduction, but there was so much material. I know, Olivier, you’ll have plenty to mine. What was some of your key takeaways in our conversation with the Micron folks at the show?

Olivier Blanchard: And that was a really good introduction. So many acronyms and part numbers, it’s kind of hard to follow. So if I could summarize and kind of focus on one thing that really struck me as sort of not just relevant but especially relevant, is when we’re talking about the overarching theme of today’s show and also at MWC, and I hate to steal your thunder ahead of when you’re going to talk about this, but it’s basically on-device AI, right? And I think that the top three topics at MWC were on-device AI, on-device AI, and on-device AI.

So up until now, what we’ve been talking about with on-device AI is the CPU, which we all understand what a CPU, central processing unit. You have the GPU, which is graphics, which is kind of like the workhorse for generative AI workloads, and also for a lot of camera and gaming applications. So basically all of the enhanced features of a phone tend to require an extremely sophisticated GPU. And we’re starting to see also neural processing units. So NPUs show up in both PCs but on phones first, that kind of help manage and accelerate these AI workloads. But so far that’s been kind of like these are the three categories of semiconductors that we’ve talked about.

And memory has, for the most part, seemed like this sort of commoditized thing where you get memory on your phone or on your device and you have these different tiers, you have 256 and whatever. But we don’t necessarily think about storage and memory as more than just storage. But actually what’s happening with the new requirements of these extremely fast AI workloads is you need a special memory solution that is well-adapted to the power requirements, to the speed, to the processes, and that just kind of makes this all work.

And where Micron has positioned itself, and I think that their joint announcement with Samsung on the S24 was so critical and also so telling is that they’re kind of like the fourth leg of that peg, of that AI peg, CPU, GPU, NPU and memory. And so it’s a fantastic strategy and hats off to Micron for making it really obvious, and having that conversation, and essentially just putting this forward in the eye of the market and saying, “No, no, no memory is also part of this. It isn’t just these other chip sets or this other semiconductor solutions.”

But also what I thought was significant is that Samsung didn’t have to do this. Samsung could have continued to just say, “Hey look, best implementation, we have our own silicon, but we’re also using Qualcomm’s SOC, it’s Snapdragon flagship plus, plus.” But they made a choice to showcase, to highlight their partnership on the memory side and to show, look, we’re thinking about this as well and this is what’s enabling this. And I can’t remember a time recently when a major handset OEM emphasized their memory partner as much as Samsung did today, and it was definitely different from Micron that usually sort of hangs in the back doing their thing. And it’s indicative of, I think first of all, the need for handset OEMs to differentiate themselves in this new age of on-device generative AI, which is we’re going to talk about what it’s going to do I think to the refresh cycles and resetting them.

But for Samsung to do this shows that, okay, the importance of memory, the importance of having the right partnerships or the right partners in the ecosystem to sort of establish dominance not just as a finished product but as an implementer of all of these different solutions together and showing to the industry that, look, we have all the right pieces in place, we have the right partners in place to deliver the best product. So huge coup for Micron. And also, I’m smarter for it because I’ll be completely honest, I was aware of this but not to that extent.

Ron Westfall: Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: And so it kind of opened my eyes to the importance of memory. And that’s cool, that’s unusual. Usually I’m ahead of the game with that and this time I wasn’t.

Ron Westfall: I agree wholeheartedly. It was a great conversation. And kudos to Samsung for elevating its memory partnership. If I recall correctly, the only other handset OEM that did that at the show was Honor, in terms of collaborating with Micron to highlight the importance of memory. So Samsung at the forefront. Honor also getting honorable mention in this regard. And so we’ll stay tuned. We could actually do the whole show just on Micron-

Olivier Blanchard: At some point we will, because I think Micron’s a company to watch.

Ron Westfall: Oh, yeah.

Olivier Blanchard: Now that they’re on my radar, they should be on everybody else’s radar too, I think. For good reason.

Ron Westfall: I think they’re on our radar and that, I think, will come to the forefront more during the course of this year, especially as AI drives a lot of the smartphone innovation and device innovation. And speaking of which, let’s turn to another device manufacturer and that is Lenovo. Now, I had the honor of joining Dominique Vanhamme, the GM of the worldwide CSP business unit on two NMG panels at the show that focus on the move to edge AI and the integral role that telcos and partners can play at the edge, as well as how telco AI can improve network energy efficiency and use. And so, definitely we have to keep a close eye on the energy efficiency dimension here because if there’s one thing that might lessen the full impact of AI is, again, the energy efficiency aspect. And we’ll touch on that a bit more.

But in terms of Lenovo, now what they did at the show was in order to support the massive amount of computing that’s moving to the edge, the company is offering Lenovo integrated edge AI solutions for telco with Lenovo’s ecosystem of partners. And that includes, for example, a new multi-cloud edge computing architecture with Telefónica, which addresses mission-critical applications for smart cities specifically. So the question has been arising, what are the use cases? Where is the focus, at least on the telco side? Well here we are, here’s a great example of it.

And the goal is to make it simple to use data throughout city streets in a wide array of AI use cases including video analytics, computer vision to identify, for example, smoke and fire to support really public safety and improve emergency response times. And so we’re all for that. Plus it’s using Lenovo’s telco cloud with the range of Lenovo ThinkEdge servers and Motorola’s Push-to-Talk technology. So yes, clearly Motorola is a part of Lenovo and they definitely will be working in tandem on projects such as this with customers such as Telefónica. And the new solution is built to orchestrate the entire edge to cloud ecosystem weaving infrastructure, connectivity and applications together to support public safety and improve emergency response with real-time AI.

Now also at the show, Lenovo unveiled an expanded joint innovation partnership for telecom and cloud services to help Orange. And that is the Orange Group bringing high performance and energy efficiency to their telco clients worldwide. Now, in support of continued telecom advancement, Orange and Lenovo are also extending the partnership for three more years and launched a shared Sylva project validation center addressing telco and edge use cases. So people are like, “What about Sylva?” Well, here we are. Now, this is a great example of why it’s definitely alive and kicking and why it got some mindshare at the show itself.

Now, specifically on devices, Lenovo launched brand new ThinkPad and Thinkbook business laptops, which unveiled AI features that enhance productivity and efficiency with performance enhancements and multimode versatility. In addition, they also showed us the ThinkVision M14t Gen 2 portable display, a USBC slim travel dock for docking on the go, and a redesigned ThinkPad Executive 16-inch backpack, which allows for easy carrying of a mobile office really.

And also rounding out the hardware announcements are also new software solutions, including Lenovo Identity Advisor, a digital identity monitoring tool and Smart Connect, a software that unlocks multi-device synergies. But I’m not done. Last but not least, the one that probably captured the imagination of many people at the show was that Lenovo showcased a futuristic proof of concept laptop, the Thinkbook transparent display laptop, which features, really I believe, the industry’s first laptop with a 17.3 inch micro LED transparent display providing a completely borderless and see-through display experience. It really was science fiction-like. It was like on the set of Minority Report or pick and choose any of those types of movies.

And with that, Olivier, what did you really like about your conversations with Lenovo, and for that matter, Motorola?

Olivier Blanchard: So two things. One, on the sustainability side, these companies are getting really serious about it. So on the one hand, there’s definitely an infrastructure play. I was just talking to, not to steal the thunder from Lenovo, but I was talking to Honeywell recently about this very thing, some of the solutions that they’re deploying that focus on sustainability for entire buildings and facilities, even just campuses. That sort of a mixture of infrastructure, hardware, software, with AI helping manage all these things. And so I can totally see how a lot of the hardware solutions that Lenovo put in the market, including Motorola, would play well into that.

It’s also something that we’re running into more on the hardware side. Obviously I was just at HP Amplify, their partner conference and there’s a huge, huge emphasis. And HP is really very forward about this. Their sustainability practices in terms of just zero plastic or zero single-use plastic in their packaging, which is sort of like the low-hanging branch. But even in the design of their products to make them last longer, to make them more easily serviceable, removing certain types of materials and replacing them with coffee grounds and ocean plastic. So there’s a lot of cool stuff that way. And so it is really good to see Lenovo also be focusing on this in every way they can.

And the trend in the industry isn’t so much to kind jump on the bandwagon as it was maybe seven, eight years ago. Now they’re operationalizing it and putting it front of mind. It’s more of a mission-critical thing. And what I’m noticing is the more companies become mature in their sustainability practices, the more those sustainability practices don’t just define them, it’s not just a messaging thing, it actually defines their product development and their go to business philosophy.

And after, I think, I don’t know where the magic point is, but after about five or six years of really intense focus on this and product design, they start actually turning their sustainability practices into product improvements where you have just more efficient, not just more power efficient, although that’s definitely one of the big areas of focus especially with AI right now, more better performance for what, longer battery life, more efficient processes, et cetera. But also just with toner cartridges, they last a lot longer. There’s miniaturization, so the parts are smaller, and they take up less space so they take up less materials, they’re also cheaper to ship. All of these things just start adding up. And so companies like Lenovo and HP focusing on this actually reduces their costs, and makes their products better, and the experiences of their users better, which is really nice.

So it’s not a cost center like it used to be like, “Oh, it’s going to cost us money to be environmentally friendly.” It’s just good business and it improves experiences, again, for users. So I love it. And what Lenovo is doing I think is sort of just adding more gas, well not gas, just accelerating, right? Gas is totally the wrong analogy for this obviously. But so just accelerating their commitment to this because obviously I think they’ve reached that stage too where they’re seeing the business and market advantages of doing it, not just the optics.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, I think that trend is becoming more sharpened and that there is genuine progress. Part of it is driven by the encouragement by the regulatory bodies and so forth to meet net-zero emission targets that are ambitious, say a decade from now or plus, but all of it’s coming together. I mean all these things are reinforcing each other. And at the beginning of the show we touched on AI is a juggernaut. Clearly it’s being prioritized by all the decision makers out there. And the only caveat on the horizon is it is bandwidth intensive. It is energy intensive.

And so I think the players out there who get out in front of this, yes, we want to make AI integral to your business success, improving business outcomes, but also from the get-go, making sure that it doesn’t undermine any sustainability objectives. It also aligns fully with what you just pointed to, Olivier. So that, I think, is encouraging.

Olivier Blanchard: There’s been a lot of stories, a lot of coverage on the power requirements of AI-focused data centers, right?

Ron Westfall: Oh, yeah.

Olivier Blanchard: And how much energy they need. And so, one of the interesting things about on-device AI, or at least a lot of AI workloads moving out of the cloud and to the edge and definitely on devices, is that it alleviates that. If you’re not running every single training and inference workload in the cloud and you’re running it on these smaller devices that are designed to be power efficient and energy efficient, that’s a huge improvement in terms of the energy expenditure that AI as a whole is going to be responsible for. So it’s definitely, I think that it’s more ecologically sound to mix that load and have this sort of hybridized AI system of data center sort of on the edge on prem, and then on device.

But if I could also really quickly just comment on the C3 laptop-

Ron Westfall: Sure.

Olivier Blanchard: … before we move on because I almost forgot to mention that. It’s very sci-fi, yes. We’ve been looking at watching movies with see-through phones, and everybody has these little glass tablets that just magically have their displays on there. We’re there, minus the actual hardware part of this is just a display. Obviously the chips and battery inside are not see through or invisible. We haven’t figured out a way to do that yet. But it was impressive and I want one. And it’s still a little thick, right?

Ron Westfall: Merry Christmas.

Olivier Blanchard: If we can get a little thinner, it would be nice. But what I also like about it is, and it was also interesting to be able to clearly see what’s happening on the screen-

Ron Westfall: Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: … and also be able to sort of clearly see what’s happening on the other side. I thought all of those images and those layers would interfere with each other, but it was done well enough that it didn’t. The other thing I should say in case anybody has a questions about it, is if you don’t want the person across from you to see what’s on your screen. Because the screen is see-through, so you can see it from both sides. There is a mode that you can engage to kind of make your screen not visible or what’s on your screen not visible to somebody who’s standing across the table from you or whatever.

Ron Westfall: Right.

Olivier Blanchard: Just for data security issues. There’s nothing nefarious. I don’t know what you’re watching on your laptop, but generally speaking, if you have passwords, if you’re writing an email, drafting something, you don’t necessarily want somebody sitting across the room from you to see what you’re working on. So there is security attached to that. And it’s a prototype, right? It’s not an actual product yet. It was a proof of concept.

Ron Westfall: Yes, it is.

Olivier Blanchard: It was super impressive.

Ron Westfall: So it’s not at the stores yet, but we’ll wait with the bated breath. And Olivier, I’m glad you mentioned AI because an X vendor also had an AI-related announcement at the show. In that case, it’s MediaTek who basically showcased a series of new gen AI demos, all of which were using its latest generation of APU hardware featured in the Dimensity 9300 flagship smartphone SoC. Now, the new solution highlights key gen AI technologies that are enabled by MediaTek, including new applications that are running entirely, again, on device.

And two quick examples, one that is called SDXL Turbo, which is, in practice was pretty neat, a text to image stable diffusion engine that dynamically generates images in real time based on user provided prompts. And so we know Hollywood, for example, sweating about this type of capability. And then also video diffusion generation, which along the same lines enables fast video diffusion generation capable of a range of animation styles. So we’re not just talking real life video but animation.

And so with those two examples, what were your impressions of MediaTek as it related to Mobile World Congress? What did you like or dislike?

Olivier Blanchard: BSX is an interesting company. They’re really good at this. And obviously it’s interesting, especially for me also covering Qualcomm because there’s-

Ron Westfall: Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: … kind of a rivalry between the two companies.

Ron Westfall: No doubt.

Olivier Blanchard: And the way that I would position this or the way that they’re positioned, I guess, is Qualcomm is, or at least traditionally in the last six, seven years at least, has established itself as the leader in premium flagship-level mobile handset SoCs. They also have some lower price tiers. But where they really excel is just sort of being at the bleeding edge of all this and having the best product, which is evidenced by the fact that they’re in pretty much all of the major OEM’s flagship Android phones.

MediaTek is not however sharing in that success of the very high tier, but where they’re strongest is in the high to middle tiers and even lower tiers. So they’re like, they’re more of a volume player. They have a really good middle solution that addresses, I would say the majority of the market. And they’ve been trying to compete with Qualcomm in that premium tier and break into that premium tier, very high end. And they haven’t thus far been able to. And there are several reasons for that, and I don’t need to get into all of them. But actually I’d love to in a different show if you ever want to have that discussion or have that analysis.

Ron Westfall: Oh, yeah.

Olivier Blanchard: And it isn’t that their product is bad at the premium model, it’s just the partnership ecosystem that Qualcomm has built and the fact that they’re more custom, in my view, definitely helps. But MediaTek, don’t sleep on MediaTek. They’ve really beefed up their AI offering. In some performance, like some benchmarking, they actually do better than Qualcomm chips. So that’s always interesting to kind of hear the back and forth between those two companies in terms of performance.

But unfortunately I don’t think that you’re going to see MediaTek break into the premium handset tier at scale anytime soon, at least not in the United States unfortunately. But what’s interesting to them for me is first of all, they’re going to bring a lot more AI capabilities to the mid-tier phones, and that’s really interesting. The other thing is they also have a really strong presence in other devices like athletic sort of electronic workout equipment. And so I can definitely see how some of these AI capabilities and AI interfaces could be integrated into home gyms and other types of devices. We’ve seen the beginning of that in the last few years with some kind of really sophisticated, nice interfaces with home gyms. And I think that MediaTek is going to help its partners add to those capabilities and make that industry really take advantage of AI.

And obviously MediaTek with IOT solutions, I think we’ll start seeing a lot of voice like AI assistant type interfaces with wearables and IoT, where MediaTek is very strong. So they’re a really important player. And even though I like to talk about Qualcomm a lot, I want to give them props because they do really good work and they serve a portion of the market that’s extremely important.

Ron Westfall: Yes, I commend the portfolio diversity. And that was pretty much a perfect segue because we are wrapping up with Qualcomm. And basically we naturally had a lot of great conversations with the team there. We’ve done already a lot of extensive reporting. I just want to fill out a couple of other takeaways in terms of what we saw from Qualcomm at the show. And as we know, they’re basically demonstrated as advancements in AI. So we are definitely keen on the fact that they truly are on the cutting edge, I believe, in terms of AI innovation. They’ve been at this for years. The moment’s come. And they definitely can be a part of that rising juggernaut in terms of being a key player. And also it’s related to 5G and wifi, and infusing AI throughout different industries as well as the devices we’ve touched on as well as consumer experiences.

And by unleashing the potential of AI, I see the fusion of on-device computing prowess and improve connectivity, being able to empower businesses as well as individual consumers to unlock new use cases and applications. And that is something that I think is important to remember. It’s like what is the use case? Well, there’s some in place, for example, being able to enhance contact center responses, things along those lines that are kind of like low-hanging fruit. But stay tuned, we’re going to see more as we figure out how to make gen AI work more effectively, not just for business, but also for those consumer experiences.

And one thing that I think jumped out at me was that Qualcomm shared the data point that gen AI is expected to have a broad impact across all these industries that could add the equivalent to $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion to the economy, or really it’s a total addressable market. And that is something that clearly grabs our attention and it followed from all the announcements they did there.

And so that is just kind of a level set for you, Olivier. I know we had these great conversations. We did some, I think very insightful research notes, but what else can you add about interacting with Qualcomm at the show?

Olivier Blanchard: Let me see if I can be brief and succinct for once.

Ron Westfall: That’s the challenge, yes.

Olivier Blanchard: For once. So let’s go through my little mental bullets. One, obviously we keep talking about on-device AI, and I just wanted to reiterate again, it’s the biggest transformative, well, I mean generative AI is the biggest transformative, I think, tech innovation of our generation. And again, just because I just got back from HP, it’s the sense that we haven’t had a major technical revolution like this in a while. So I think there’s Windows 95, which is sort of the beginning of the real sort of computing era, the modern computing era. We have the invention of the smartphone, which obviously has been extremely transformative. And I think AI is clearly the next one. It’s going to get into everything. So that’s number one.

It’s going to transform how we interact with technology, what technology can do for us. We’re talking about just no-code coding. You can just tell your technology what you want it to do and it’s going to do it. It’s able to recognize and understand data without human input. I mean, it’s crazy. So it is extremely transformative. And the ability to have this capability spread across data centers, so basically in the cloud, on-prem, and with devices is extremely empowering because as you mentioned, it’s all use case based. So if you need data center type power and performance, you can move some of those workloads there. If you don’t, or you need something more immediate or something that doesn’t require connectivity, then you don’t want lag at all, then you can do it on device, so you can spread that load.

And so I think what’s really important, especially with Qualcomm’s approach and how they communicate their vision for how AI proliferates across our entire tech ecosystem is all of those pieces also, they don’t just need to work on the devices or on the hardware that they’re on, they also need to be able to talk to each other. And so connectivity is going to be a huge factor here because your device is going to decide based on the use case, what packets of information or what workloads it’s going to do on itself, or which ones it’s going to send out. And then they’re going to have to be sent out and go back and forth. And so 5G and ultimately 6G are going to be critical to that AI connectivity between all of those moving pieces. In addition to that, Wifi 7 is a huge, I think it’s sort of like the understated MVP of all this.

Ron Westfall: Right.

Olivier Blanchard: We’re seeing a big push with Wifi 7 into vehicles as well for that specific reason, to be able to move some of the workloads and manage them better. Which AI will do, by the way, by itself without you, the user, having to worry about it. So I think, for me, it’s this whole hybridized AI ecosystem that’s really important, where all the pieces do what they need to be doing. The connectivity between them being smart, reliable, very high-performance, and just the architecture of it being designed specifically for the age of AI as opposed to a 5G and wifi architecture that is trying to adapt itself to the needs of AI.

Ron Westfall: Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: What we’re seeing is a shift towards AI is the determining factor, we are now building solutions, connectivity solutions with it and for it, looking into the future and looking for the type of scale that we’re probably looking at. And I think the next step will be connecting all that with augmented reality and ubiquitous XR. We’re not quite there yet. Right now we have to do this AI layer first with the transition from wifi, well, the transition to Wifi 7, but also the transition from 5G to 6G in the next six years.

Ron Westfall: Right. I think that’s a valid timeframe. And I think that was the major takeaway that we had AI in the morning, AI in the evening, AI across the board to the point you might as well rename the show AI World Congress. But this is not unique to Mobile Congress. You could anticipate this for about every show coming up this year.

And in addition to AI, I would like to call out a couple of other, I think, important developments that came out of the show. One is a re-energizing of network APIs. I know we’ve been talking about it for a while. But I think some of the developments on the standardization side as well as some improvements in portfolio capabilities by players like Vonage, now part of Ericsson, are going to really catalyze the ability to really finally make network APIs more tangible in terms of their impact on operator business outcomes.

And in addition, private 5G, I thought it got a lot of attention. So we can anticipate that private 5G will definitely be proliferating during the course of ’24 plus in terms of, and here’s a preview of Mobile Congress ’25, that it will just be part of the mix, you will. But it’ll be fascinating to see how it breaks out, how many of them will be offered by systems integrators, the solutions that is, versus service providers versus enterprises adopting it themselves, i.e. do it yourself, or the vendors are stepping in and implementing it for the customer. So this is really, I think, going to be kind of a Wild West scenario in some ways.

And to wrap it up, really, and this is going back to Qualcomm, there was I think one unsung hero that was actually pre AI and is a 5G success story, that is simply fixed wireless access or FWA. And Qualcomm leading up to the show unveiled its 5G fixed wireless access Ultra Gen 3 platform. And that is actually aimed at making it all the more successful. I think it’s been a success story, maybe not firing up the imagination as much as all the AI marketing out there, but it’s important to note that already 110 million FWA devices have been deployed. That’s going to triple over the next few years for both indoor and outdoor applications.

And what Qualcomm’s doing with its third generation multimeter wave module, I’ll call the QTM 567, is to enable more than multimeter wave capabilities in terms of coverage and range, and also improving a spectrum aggregation, and of course leveraging AI enhanced search and selection so that FWA could be all the more efficient and user-friendly. And any final thoughts at this juncture, Olivier, to add?

Olivier Blanchard: No, no. I’m glad you added that at the end because it’s impressive. And also fiber is great, but fiber is expensive and it’s difficult to put in. So FWA is a really good solution. And I think if the piece of equipment that you’re talking about at the end is the one with the motorized reflector, the millimeter wave?

Ron Westfall: Oh, yeah. That’s right.

Olivier Blanchard: It’s kind of impressive too.

Ron Westfall: Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: If I get one, I want mine to be see-through so I can see the thing. But essentially it’s like a little mirror-

Ron Westfall: Yes.

Olivier Blanchard: … that catches the millimeter waves and redirects them. So it’s extremely precise and that’s going to help a lot. So I’m very much in favor of the FWA solutions and I’m glad that they’re taking off. The only other thing too is what I’ll be curious about for the next 12 months, before the next Mobile World Congress, is the tension between wifi and private 5G networks in industrial applications. Because sometimes wifi works fine, sometimes you need 5G. And there’s still quite a bit of debate as to which works best for what and what’s the better investment. So hopefully we’ll get a little bit more clarity and segmentation in the next year.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, I’m predicting more blending of the two.

Olivier Blanchard: Yes. I agree.

Ron Westfall: It’s not quite an either or, but yes, it’s in place today. But yes, that’s an excellent point. And again, part of our pre MWC ’25 scoop.

Olivier Blanchard: This is like an-

Ron Westfall: Public integration.

Olivier Blanchard: … episode. We’ll re-release it just before.

Ron Westfall: Well, with that high note, thank you so much, Olivier for joining. Again, kudos on the upcoming nuptials. Have a wonderful honeymoon.

Olivier Blanchard: Thank you. Thank you.

Ron Westfall: Hopefully our show will be ready by then. And with that, again, thank you to our viewing audience for joining us. Again, don’t forget to bookmark us and keep us in mind as we do the show once a week. And with that, everybody have a wonderful 5G day.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

5G Factor: MWC24 Preview – AI, Devices, and UX Shine

5G Factor: MWC24 Preview – AI and GenAI Percolating

MWC24: Qualcomm Turbocharges 5G FWA with AI-Infused Ultra Gen 3

Author Information

Ron is an experienced, customer-focused research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets, working with businesses to drive consistent revenue and sales growth.

He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including a wide range of topics across software and services, infrastructure, 5G communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues.

Prior to his work with The Futurum Group, Ron worked with GlobalData Technology creating syndicated and custom research across a wide variety of technical fields. His work with Current Analysis focused on the broadband and service provider infrastructure markets.

Ron holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from University of Nevada — Las Vegas and a Bachelor of Arts in political science/government from William and Mary.

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.

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