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Qualcomm, Nokia and UScellular’s Extended Range 5G World Record – Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series
by Daniel Newman | June 14, 2021

On this special episode of the Futurum Tech Podcast – Interview Series I am joined by guests from Qualcomm, UScellular and Nokia to discuss big news with 5G millimeter wave.

My guests include: Narothum Saxena, Vice President of Technology, Strategy and Architecture for UScellular; Randy Cox, Head of Product Management, Small Cells and 5G mmWave at Nokia; Gautum Sheoran, Senior Director of Product Management at Qualcomm.

Our discussion centered on the exciting extended-range 5G world record over mmWave. This impressive achievement means that we are just one step closer to bringing 5G service to more areas across networks in the US.

Qualcomm, Nokia and UScellular’s Extended Range 5G World Record

My conversation with Narothum, Randy, and Gautum also revolved around the following:

  • Details about the extended-range 5G world record
  • Why this is a big deal in the US and what we can likely expect from carriers
  • An overview of the applications that will benefit from the continued development of extended-range mmWave
  • The market opportunity this news creates as well as future deployment plans.

This milestone will likely be a key stepping stone for ensuring better broadband connectivity in all parts of the US and eventually the world. It will be exciting to see where this takes us. You can read more about the world record here.

Watch my interview with Narothum, Randy, and Gautum here:

Or listen to my interview with Narothum, Randy, and Gautum on your favorite streaming platform here:

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

Transcript:

Daniel Newman: Everybody to the Futurum Tech Podcast and Futurum Tech TV. I’m your host, Daniel Newman, principal analyst, and founding partner at Futurum Research. Excited today for today’s Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series. I’m going to have a group of guests on following a big announcement in the 5G space. We have guests from Qualcomm, UScellular and Nokia today to talk about a new world record hit on mmWave 5G.

Before I bring our guest onto the show, just a quick disclaimer, on what’s going on here. This show is for information and entertainment purposes only. So while we will be talking about publicly traded companies and two publicly traded companies, please do not take anything I say here as investment advice, but do definitely listen as we do like to break and discuss some of the most important themes and updates and news across tech. And this is big news today. So without further ado, I’m going to have our guests join and do a quick series of introductions before I get into the Q&A. So we’ve got Narothum from UScellular, We’ve got Randy coming on from Nokia and we’ve got Gautam coming on from Qualcomm. So I’m going to go around the horn and will let each quickly introduce yourselves. And then I will get right into the news and the questions. So Narothum brought you on first. Go ahead and give us an introduction.

Narothum Saxena: Hello, my name is Narothum Saxena, I’m with UScellular and I lead the technology strategy and architecture group.

Daniel Newman: Great to have you on. Randy?

Randy Cox: Yeah. My name is Randy Cox, part of Nokia, and I’m in the product management team, working mmWave and small cells globally.

Daniel Newman: Outstanding. Thanks for coming on Randy. Narothum?

Gautam Sheoran: Hey, my name is Gautam. I work for Qualcomm. I’m the product manager, senior director, product management for Fixed Wireless Access and the 5G Modem.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. Well, thanks all for joining. Like I said, 5G is a big topic, it’s impacting all of our lives. A lot of us hear about it, know about it because of the devices that are carrying in our pockets. And we’re getting that little 5G symbol lit up and it means faster connectivity, better experiences, but there’s a lot going on when it comes to 5G infrastructure, experiences going into Fixed Wireless Access is going to be our topic today. Headline was essentially that Nokia, Qualcomm, UScellular work together to hit an extended range 5G world record over mmWave. Now a couple of quick bullet points on this accessible milestone was achieved on UScellular’s production, 5G mmWave network, it used Nokia’s 5G extended range, mmWave solution, and a 5G CPE powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System with its QTM527 mmWave Antenna Module.

All right, that was a lot. I had to read that one off because it was too many acronyms at one time. Now there’s a little bit of more details of what it was while the new world record basically achieved what it’s called near gigabit speeds, distances of approximately 10 kilometers or as we like to say here in the US, six miles with high capacity ultra low latency, which are the known benefits to a mmWave network. And this is something that Nokia’s solutions are going to enable to deliver to these services to more regions and will be especially important as we start to push these out to more rural, less densely populated areas. Gentlemen, congratulations on the news, always exciting to hear engineering and technology and innovation driving what is going to be a better experience for business and consumers. Narothum I want to start off with you and basically say I’ve given my best assessment, but you guys I’m sure are jumping up and down. Why is this such big news for UScellular?

Narothum Saxena: Sure. This is indeed an exciting news because if you go back a couple years, our folks were talking in terms of few hundred meters, or maybe less than a kilometer distance with mmWave. Today we are talking about distances of 10 kilometers and this milestone really paved the way for carriers to bring 5G service using mmWave with massive capacity and low latency to even more regions across the United States. It will help close the digital divide and what it does is the extended distances allows you to address the connectivity gap that exists today in the communities that are previously not serviced, or they do not have an adequate internet connectivity. So we can provide our customers the capabilities that mmWave brings with high performance and low latency 5G service, and enhance their customer experience. I would also say that UScellular is collaborating with partners, such as Nokia, Qualcomm and others, not just on proof of concept or trial in the production network, but also in making this extended mmWave range and its benefits commercially available to our customers, especially in the rural and underserved areas. So I’m really excited about this news.

Daniel Newman: It’s really big news. Now you guys, as a carrier, what is this going to change? What does this mean for your ability to impact product service? What’s going to come from this from Uscellular?

Narothum Saxena: Broadband access, AKA Fixed Wireless Access, delivering fast speeds on a cost-effective basis, providing last mile access, especially in rural areas. I think that’s the biggest benefit that we can provide to our customers and other potential applications of this particular technology can be a point to point connectivity. So we are really excited about bringing this service to our customers and provide connectivity to the rural areas.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. And I know you’ve said that as I initially hit you up and I wanted you to reiterate that because a lot of times people listen and they blow right by it and it’s like, “all right, what’s in it for me?” That’s like one of those things you learn early in business school. That “what’s in it for me?” Acronym, people always want to know, “all right, this sounds really cool. It’s going to be faster. Will I personally benefit? Will the experience change anything that happens for me on my device or in my office as I connect”, and this rural access, it’s such a big deal. I mean, if you think about all the debates and discussions we’re having around the country right now, when it comes to infrastructure plans, for instance, this is as I see it, what they should mean when they say infrastructure.

And yes, I know a lot of us take it as things like roads and bridges, but keeping everyone connected and making it an equal playing field for people despite what type of cell towers and connectivity and edges and clouds might be in a region, this is a big deal. This is something that definitely needs to be discussed more. Now, I guess I’d like to turn this over to a Gautam over at Qualcomm. Talk a little bit about the applications that will ultimately benefit from this continued development of the extended range mmWave.

Gautam Sheoran: You guys touched on this a little bit. It’s really about closing the digital divide. Fiber is not available at a lot of places. How do you deliver fiber light speeds to everybody who needs them? And I think cellular is a great way to deliver that, but why is mmWave specifically important for this? That is the spectrum bank that has huge amount of spectrum resources that you could use to deliver gigabits of speeds.

I think for this demo, we just showed about one gigabits, but we were operating over a spectrum range of 400 megahertz, which is half the capability of our X55 Modem to RF System. So we could actually do more than that. So you have the right bag with huge amounts of spectrum available to operators that gives them the capacity to really deliver gigabit speeds to people who don’t have fiber, who don’t have connectivity, and it could be residences, it could be schools, hospitals, any kind of a rural infrastructure or [inaudible] infrastructure. So I think the applications are endless and we’ve been working together with the ecosystem USL and Nokia over the last year, year and a half to stretch mmWave to 10 kilometers. I mean, that was a goal. And to really say that this is not a technology that’s limited to say 2, 3, 400 meters of distance.

This could really be stretched, so applications are endless.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And, Gautam you got to say what immediately comes to my mind is 10 kilometers the threshold now? We were talking early on hundreds of meters. We were talking about, line of sites. We were talking about a lot of the limitations and this was why Sub-6 took off faster early on, but we’re seeing mmWave is definitely the technology that’s driving the promise, the experience that everybody was expecting. Do you think it could go to 15? Could it go to 20? I mean, is there a potential here or do you think you guys have hit the end of the line?

Gautam Sheoran: I mean, we don’t limit ourselves. I think we are continuously improving our technology. I mean, even on the base station, Nokia’s improving. So I’m sure we will go further, but 10 was the initial goal we set up, I think with gigabit plus speeds, so we are there.

Randy Cox: I want to be careful how I answer this, because how I answer this Narothum will certainly be calling me very quickly at how fast…

Gautam Sheoran: Let me take some notes.

Randy Cox: Exactly. So, no, I would agree with Gautam. I don’t think we should limit ourselves, but having said that, I mean, we should sit on this and celebrate this right now, before we look to the next one, but we don’t want to limit ourselves. So if we can do better, we’re going to continue to strive to do that.

Daniel Newman: Yeah it’s interesting when you say that, I’m the kind of parent that my kid brings home straight A’s and I ask why they didn’t get a higher A. So as an analyst, you just have to know, I’m always going to be asking, because I’m going to be talking to everybody in the marketplace and you know someone’s going to come out and say, we can do 10.1. That’s just the reality of it. So I think your answer was correct though. Keep pushing the bounds with every bit you can stretch a little bit further and a little bit further, there’s more benefit, but also it’s density and quality. I mean, you don’t want to just take it further. You want the quality to be there as well. And we all know if you’re willing to degrade quality, you can always get a signal.

I mean, but we all know what a one bar signal looks like, just because you have, it doesn’t mean it’s any good. Let’s build on this a little bit here and Randy, I’ll keep it with you, market leadership. I mean, I just alluded to the fact that there is this leapfrogging of fact, there’s always one company or another, that’s going to come in and say “you did A, we did A+ plus work, whatever it is. What kind of market leadership opportunity does this news create? How hard will it be for others in the space that are competing with you to replicate the work that you’ve just accomplished?

Randy Cox: Yeah. Good question. Well, I do feel like we did leapfrog because we’ve been working to do extended cell range for quite some time and while we did make some progress, today commercially we can achieve, 1.2 kilometers from a commercial software perspective, we were looking to do two or four or seven and actually in this particular demo and trial, we achieved this 11 kilometers or 10 kilometers. So I think others will attempt this as well and I think we have very respectful competition and I have no doubt they’ll be able to achieve this as well. Having said that there are specific algorithms that we pulled together in order to try to achieve. So we’ll look to see how they do.

Daniel Newman: Oh, absolutely. I mean, is it like a traveling… Everybody’s trying to get to the moon now and now we’re all trying to get to Mars. So space exploration always makes for a great metaphor, but the point here is that when it came to getting to the moon, most of the chase was in getting there first. And then after that, it was just all about, can we even get there at all? I think when it comes to things like this, being their first in the market leadership to me reflects a lot about how committed you are to both R&D. You know, we like to couple R&D together, research and development. A lot of companies do development well, but very few companies do the research part well.

That’s why I’ve always admired a lot of the companies that are part of 3GPP they’re setting standards that are involved in building next way, because this stuff is visionary and you work on it for decades and you don’t start to monetize it until long after the investment is gone. So I have to say, every time I see news like this, it makes me smile. It’s a lot of work that you all put into this and you probably deserve to… Randy, as you suggested to maybe celebrate, sit down, put your feet up for a minute, but you only get a minute and that’s kind of me as, you get a minute, but then I need you back to work. Because I know the next iterations and pushes are going to come out. I guess I’ll let it end on here in a quick, let’s do a quick round the horn, but this is a little fun with the news, but I’ll start with you Narothum because you went first and then didn’t get to talk again.

But one thing you really want the market to take away from this news, what would it be?

Narothum Saxena: It’s a broadband connectivity to the rural America. That’s what I want to get this message because what this really enables us, how close the digital divide that others mentioned about and provide connectivity to underserved rural America.

Daniel Newman: And as a carrier, I’d say that’s the perfect thing to pick item to pick as your number one. How about you Gautam? What’s your number one takeaway through the Qualcomm lens,

Gautam Sheoran: I would really say that wireless fiber with mmWave 5G is here now, it’s available for customers to access and much faster rollout than any kind of digging trenches or any fixed fiber deployments. That’s the takeaway here.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. And Randy, I’ll give you the hard spot go last, but give everyone out there, all the listeners, what’s one thing that you really want them to take away from this news.

Randy Cox: Well, what I would want to make sure that everyone’s clear on is, you hear a lot in the news demos, trials, capabilities being shouted. This is real. You mentioned research, this is not just a research in the sense of a special capability that will not be able to be commercialized. We’re confident today that we’re going to be able to take what we did in USellular’s network. And we will be able to commercialize this. So while it’s a great accomplishment and we love it, we’re ecstatic that we’re able to do this. This is not just an experiment. This is a, I would say even a pre-commercial capability that we’ve demonstrated.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s great. That’s great insight. So with that, I’m going to just go ahead and send you guys off to the green room here. I just want to thank all three of you. Narothum, Randy, Gautam, thank you so much for joining me here on the Futurum Tech Podcast, the Interview Series, very exciting stuff. I always love hearing this stuff. I always loved being on the front edge of the big news and you guys did a great job of breaking it down. I’m going to break it down for everybody really quickly. I’m going to leave you guys in the green room, but I’ll be back with you in just a minute.

All right, everybody, you heard it here first on the Futurum Tech Podcast, Futurum Tech TV, love having all of these different companies, by the way, these companies work collaboratively. And that’s one of the great things about the tech ecosystem. You’ve got a carrier, you’ve got multiple companies that are heavily involved in the development and deployment of infrastructure and core technologies for each and every generation of new connectivity that’s gone out in the marketplace.

So thanks to all that attended and tuned in and looked at this. This is a really big deal. Narothum said it really well. When you start to think about what this really means, this connectivity is here, but rural areas are often much later to receive these levels of speed and connectivity, premium mmWave out to the rural communities, rural areas is going to level the playing field. It’s a big move in the infrastructure space. It’s something that we should, and we’ll be talking a lot more about, but for this episode of Futurum Tech Podcast and Futurum Tech TV, I got to say goodbye right now. I want to thank you all for tuning in, hit that subscribe button, check out all our other episodes, we have lots of them with all kinds of different executives, top leaders, thought leaders and thinkers across tech. We here, don’t like to just give the news. We’d like to give the analysis and tell you what you need to know, but I got to say goodbye for now. We’ll see you later.

 

About the Author

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio