By Douglas Busvine and Stephen Nellis
BERLIN (Reuters) – Qualcomm Inc is ramping up its effort to put 5G mobile phones within reach of billions of people and backing new connected laptops aimed at the growing number of people working at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. chipmaker launched on Thursday a 5G-ready version of its Snapdragon 4 chips that will run on cheaper phones, priced at $125-$250, that will hit markets in the first quarter of next year.
“It will deliver on the promise of making 5G accessible to all smartphone users,” Qualcomm’s president, Cristiano Amon, said in an opening video address to the IFA consumer technology fair in Berlin.
The three-day event, which attracted 240,000 visitors last year, is closed to the public this year due to the pandemic. Instead, it is being held as a ‘hybrid’ event featuring a mix of online and in-person events for the trade and media.
Amon also announced a 5G platform to support ‘always on, always connected’ laptops that are increasingly in demand among people working at home who need fast, secure connections to log in to company networks or join video conference calls.
“We may be closer to escape velocity because of what happened,” he told Reuters in an interview, predicting the growth in connected PCs would outlast the pandemic as consumers demand features to match those on the best smartphones.
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Qualcomm, the world’s biggest supplier of mobile phone chips, says 5G networks – which enable ultra-fast downloads and run connected devices and factories – are being built far faster than previously expected.
Eighty mobile operators have deployed 5G, Amon said, forecasting that 750 million 5G smartphones would ship in 2022 and that 5G connections would top 1 billion a year later – two years faster than was the case with 4G.
At last year’s IFA, Qualcomm made a splash by launching 5G chipsets for mid-priced phones. The Snapdragon 4 product completes its 5G range, targeting a potential audience of over 3.5 billion people.
Smartphone makers Motorola, OPPO and Xiaomi have signed up to make 5G phones with Snapdragon 4.
Qualcomm is also partnering with Taiwan’s Acer to market 5G-enabled PCs running on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G platform, featuring multi-day battery life, enterprise-level security and high-end cameras and audio.
(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mark Potter)