Qualcomm releases study behind claims 5G will be as revolutionary as electricity

During Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf’s keynote at CES 2017, he equated 5G’s impact to that of electricity or the automobile, raising more than a few eyebrows. Turns out, Qualcomm’s not the only one thinking such grand thoughts.

Qualcomm Technologies today released a study, "The 5G Economy," that examines the potential economic and social impact of 5G around the world. The study, commissioned by Qualcomm, was conducted by analysts at IHS Markit, which puts 5G in the same category as the printing press, the internet, electricity, the steam engine and the telegraph.

Each of those discoveries or inventions is part of an elite class of socio-economic mainsprings known as General Purpose Technologies (GPTs), which often are catalysts for transformative changes that redefine processes. It’s hard to imagine living for long without electricity, and now 5G is part of that elite group.

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As Mollenkopf mentioned in his CES keynote, the study predicts 5G will enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output in 2035, which is nearly equivalent to U.S. consumer spending in 2016 and more than the combined spending by consumers in China, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France in 2016.

By 2035, the ubiquity of 5G will result in impacts that advance beyond the capability of existing technologies, platforms and industries, yet the proliferation of 3G and 4G mobile technology provide important analogs as the 5G economy blossoms, according to the study.

The report includes an economic impact study conducted by IHS Markit and validated by Dr. David Teece, director of the Tusher Center at the Haas School of Business, U.C. California, and principal executive officer of the Berkeley Research Group (BRG). It also includes opinion research about the expectations for 5G among business and technology leaders carried out by PSB. The combined findings show how 5G will profoundly affect the global economy and that business decision makers in technology and other industries overwhelmingly believe in the transformational nature of 5G.

Qualcomm has been boasting, at trade shows and elsewhere, for some time now about its leadership position in 5G. The X50 modem, which Qualcomm announced a few months ago, is the first in a family of 5G modems that will provide an anchor to early deployments of 5G and will be essential to the millimeter wave systems that will start trials and deployments in late 2017 and early 2018.

According to the PSB results, business decision makers across industries, especially in the United States, say technology industry standards are “very important” in helping companies deliver 5G,  and audiences across markets say companies with past experience delivering wireless connectivity solutions and expertise in a variety of technologies are best equipped to be leaders in 5G.

Interestingly, given Qualcomm’s enforcement of intellectual property rights, one in two respondents say intellectual property rights are “very important” in helping companies deliver 5G. Respondents who say IP rights protections are important to 5G say they’re necessary to motivate innovators and protect investments; the reasons for thinking IP rights are not important are varied: Some worry they restrict innovation, while others believe they promote unfair advantages.