back to article In a touching tribute to its $800m-ish antitrust fine, Qualcomm tears wraps off Snapdragon 865 chip for 5G phones

Why is it that Qualcomm is never far from drama? On the eve of it officially unveiling its Snapdragon 765 and 865 system-on-chips, at its Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii on Wednesday, the US semiconductor giant was fined a record-breaking $873m in South Korea for unfair business practices relating to its, er, unique approach …

  1. eldakka Silver badge

    So, why aren't more computers these days shipping with cellular modems and SIM cards, to get connected to remote apps and data wherever they are, and when will people – particularly enterprises – take a greater interest in 4G or 5G notebooks?

    Because I have a perfectly capable WiFi hotspot (or tethered modem if desired) in my pocket, my phone, that I've already paid for, that doesn't require additional componentry in the laptop (a Cellular modem/antenna) that increases the price of the laptop, significantly, to duplicate something I already have (3/4/5G phone with the necessary euqipment) nor do I need to set up a new account/data/SIM plan with a telco to use.

    Since most people already carry on their person at all (or most) times this portable WiFi hotspot or tetherable modem, which the use of 5G built into laptops wouldn't eliminate them carrying anyway, why would I need 5G in the laptops when I can just use their WiFi to connect to my WiFi hotspot (or USB cable for tethering) in the phone?

    Even if they eliminate the price difference between a 5G vs non-5G capable laptop - maybe integrating 5G modems into standard WiFi chipsets - I still don't see it being a generally desirable trait, as now you have to maintain or even pay for another account to use it with, rather than using my already existing account on my phone.

    Sure, I can see it being potentially useful, but certainly not a killer feature and something that the vast majority of people would bother with over using their phones as their connectivity method (or home WiFi or open WiFi hotspots using VPNs).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even if they eliminate the price difference between a 5G vs non-5G capable laptop - maybe integrating 5G modems into standard WiFi chipsets - I still don't see it being a generally desirable trait, as now you have to maintain or even pay for another account to use it with, rather than using my already existing account on my phone.

      My office-issued laptop has an LTE modem. It is quite nice, especially since it can use a much better antenna than my cell phone, and hence can get decent signal even when my phone has to fall back to 2G. However, it hardly ever gets used anymore. In addition to the issues you mention, there are also drivers. They have been quite wobbly under Windows 10, and a complete crapshoot with NetworkManager/ModemManager: the underlying kernel driver will work fine, but the ModemManager (god, I hate capitalized utility names!) won't talk to it unless I hunt down a very specific point version, and rebuild it myself - at which point the system's NetworkManager won't talk to the ModemManager, and would need to be rebuilt as well. Since my primary work environment is under Linux, I just eventually gave up. That was a couple of years ago; may be the things have improved since then, but I no longer care enough to try again - tethering to a cell phone simply works, and is completely hassle-free.

    2. CheesyTheClown

      Cheers

      I often work together with large enterprises helping them train their IT staff in wireless technologies. And the message I send regularly is that there is absolutely no value in upgrading their wiress for new standards rather than growing their existing infrastructure to support better service.

      I have recently begun training telecoms on planning for 5G installation. And the message I generally send is "people won't really care about 5G" and I have many reasons to back this up.

      Understand that so long as pico/nano/femto/microcells are difficult to get through regulation in many countries, Wifi will continue to be a necessary evil within enterprises and business running particularly difficult operations to deploy wireless in. We need Wifi mostly for things like barcode scanners and RFID scanners within warehouses. An example of this is a fishery I've worked with where gigantic, grounded metal cages full of fish are moved around refrigerated storage all day long. Another is in a mine shaft where the entire environment is surrounded by iron ore. In these places, wifi is needed, but there's absolutely no reason to run anything newer than Wireless-N except for availability. AC actually costs less than N in most cases today, but there's no practical reason to upgrade. 4x4 MIMO 802.11n is more than good enough in these environments.

      5G offers very little to the general consumer. It is a great boon for IoT and for wireless backhaul networks, but for the consumer, 5G will not offer any practical improvements over LTE. 600Mhz 5G is a bit of an exception though. 600Mhz 5G isn't particularly fast... in most cases it's about the same as LTE. It's primary advantage is the range. It will be great for farmers on their tractors. In the past, streaming Netflix or Spotify while plowing the fields has been unrealistic. 5G will likely resolve the issue.

      For people within urban environments, they're being told that 5G will give them higher availability and higher bandwidth. What most people don't realize is that running an LTE phone against the new 5G towers will probably provide the exact same experience. 5G will offer far more towers within urban areas and as such, LTE to those towers will work much better than it does to the 4G towers today. 4G is also more than capable of downloading at 10 times higher bandwidths than most users consume today. The core limitation has been the backhaul network. And where 4G typically had 2x10Gb/s fibers to each of 4 towers within an area. 5G will have 2x100Gb/s fibers (as well as a clock sync fiber) to 9 towers within the same area. This will result in much better availability (indoors and out) as well as better bandwidth... and as a bonus, it will improve mobile phone battery life substantially as 4G beamforming along with shorter distances will consume as much as 5 times less power on the phone compared to the current cell network.

      5G has no killer app for the consumer. 3G had serious problems across the board since 3G technologies (UMTS, CDMA, etc...) were really just poor evolutions of the classical GSM radio design. LTE was "revolutionary" in its design and mobile data went from "nice toy for rich people" to "ready for consumption by the masses". 5G (which I've been testing for over a year) doesn't offer anything of practical value other than slightly shorter latency which is likely only to be realized by the most hardcore gamers.

      I certainly have no intention of upgrading either my phone or my laptop to get better mobile and wireless standards. What I have now hasn't begun to reach the capacity of what they can support today. The newer radios (wifi6 and 5G) will make absolutely no difference in my life.

      If you have anyone who listens to you, you should recommend that your IT department focuses on providing wireless network security through a zero-trust model. Which means you could effectively ignore wireless security and as you mentioned, use VPNs or fancy technologies like Microsoft Direct Access to provide secure, inspected, firewalled links for wireless users. They should focus on their cabling infrastructure as well as the addition of extra APs to offer location services for things like fire safety and emergency access. They shouldn't waste money buying new equipment either. Used APs are 1/10th the price. In a zero-trust environment, you really don't need software updates as the 802.11n and 802.11ac standards and equipment are quite stable today. They should simply increase their AP count, improve their cabling so the APs within a building are never cabled into one place (a closet can catch fire), install redundant power to support emergency situations. Use purely plenum rated cabling. Support pseudo-mac assignment to people not carrying wireless devices can be located by signal disturbance during a fire.

      Once this system is operational, it should live for the rest of the lifespan of your wifi dependence. I can safely believe that within 5-10 years, most phones from Apple, Samsung, etc... will ship without Wifi as its presence will be entirely redundant.

      Also for 5G, inform people that they should wait for a phone that actually gives them something interesting. Spending money on 5G for personal communication devices is just wasteful and worst of all, environmentally damaging. If the market manages to sell 5G as a "killer app", we stand to see over a billion mobile phones disposed of as people upgrade. Consider than even something as small as a telephone, when you make a pile of a billion of them is a disaster for this planet.

      5G will be great for IoT and not so much 5G, but the proliferation of NB-IOT is very interesting. $15 or less will provide an eSim capable 5G modem module to things like weather sensors (of which there are already tens of millions out there), radar systems, security systems, etc... We should probably see tens of billions of NB-IOT devices out there within the next few years. A friend of mine has already begun integrating it into a project of hers of which she has funding for over 2 million sensors to be deployed around Europe.

      No... you're 100% correct. Wifi has begun it's death knell. It will be irrelevant within 5-10 years and outside of warehouses and similarly radio harsh environment, it is very likely it will be replaced by LTE, NB-IOT and 5G.

      And no... 5G on a laptop is almost idiotic if you already have LTE. You should (with the right plan) be able to do 800Mbit/sec or possibly more with LTE. Even when running Windows Update, you probably don't consume more than 40MBit/sec.

      1. john.w

        Re: Cheers

        I was going to Wi-Fi alliance meetings when documents were shared using PCMCIA cards as file sharing over the temporary Wi-Fi network was a nightmare. I have always argued that wireless is about mobility not connectivity as a wire/fibre will always out perform any wireless technology for speed and latency. It was not always a welcome message with my own management but I was proved right over and over again when cable replacement 'opportunities' failed to deliver.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Cheers

        Interesting post with a lot of interesting information.

        Thank you for that.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cheers

        "Once this system is operational, it should live for the rest of the lifespan of your wifi dependence. I can safely believe that within 5-10 years, most phones from Apple, Samsung, etc... will ship without Wifi as its presence will be entirely redundant."

        Err no. Not in this universe.

  2. martinusher Silver badge

    I see a train wreck.....

    This 'always connected to the cloud' thing has proved to be a disaster for IoT deployment with rosy marketing predictions just not panning out because the products are klunky to use, relatively expensive and prone to unreliability if there's anything wrong with the internet connection (or the vendor's just gone belly up). This reality check hasn't dissuaded them, though, because they now expect us to commit to putting our entire computing universe in the cloud. Sure, "next year" everything's going to be peachy but based on present form the offering is going to be unreliable, patchy and expensive. Maybe in a decade or so things will improve but for now its just not going to happen.

    To complicate things further we've got a war going on between the US government and Huawei. Its started to dawn on our government that while we've been fiddling Huawei has been making base stations and other infrastructure so to try to get some competition going we, the US taxpayer (or should I say "future US taxpayer since its all going on the credit card) intend to subsidize global purchases of Ecrisson and Nokia kit to the tune of $60 billion. This tells me the race is lost -- while we're screwing around playing economic warfare the Chinese are deploying actual kit -- working kit -- leaving us with our dreadful, anemic, offerings as an excuse for a 5G rollout, offerings that don't actually appear to be 5G anyway. Its a mess but we really only have ourselves to blame for it.

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Cloudy connections

    What's up with the 8 cores and math co-processor (queue old desktop flashback) if mmWave is going to be so awesome that everything will be in the cloud?

    mmWave - Really fast wireless at wired ranges.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "always-connected PC"

    Why it doesn't even need much processing power.

    Amazing.

    April 1977. Launch of Apple II. Brought first spreadsheet program to run on users hardware without requiring IT dept support (or even be in the office).

    2019 The dumb terminal is back again.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: "always-connected PC"

      Never expect someone to predict something that doesn't already conform to their current narrow worldview.

      Qualcomm needs to big up "always connected" as its integral to their 5G product shipping and revenue forecasts. Whether that view is connected to reality on the ground remains to be seen.

  5. sbt Silver badge
    WTF?

    "...a discrete *non-optional* part"

    (my emphasis)

    Isn't that the kind of play they've just been fined for?

  6. NeilPost Bronze badge

    Tarriff and bans

    Surprised Trump did not try and get this on a prohibited list or huge tariffs threatened.

    Does he know the difference between Hawaii and Huawei ??

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "It's very easy to share and collaborate with the cloud"

    Yes, I'm sure the NSA and hackers all over the world are in total agreement with that statement.

    You are out of you mind if you honestly think that I am going to trust my entire desktop and all my data to someone else's computer, to be accessed under someone else's whim. I have a PC, a Personal computer, and I intend it to stay that way.

    1. Mahhn

      Re: "It's very easy to share and collaborate with the cloud"

      Exactly

    2. Mark192 Bronze badge

      Re: "It's very easy to share and collaborate with the cloud"

      "You are out of you mind if you honestly think that I am going to trust my entire desktop and all my data to someone else's computer, to be accessed under someone else's whim."

      People have nothing to fear from a connected society where communications and data can be accessed by government or big business.

      Apart from political & social activists, business people, people working for those groups, the friends and family of them and the wider populace who benefit from the rights and safeties that were fought for, won and maintained.

      But unless you're one of them, nothing to fear.

      (this post may contain sarcasm)

  8. FrogsAndChips Silver badge
    Angel

    mmWave signals [...] being blocked by [...] your hand holding your fancy 5G phone

    Only if you're holding it wrong, obviously.

  9. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Two tiers

    He went on to argue that 5G will cause applications and services to split into two tiers: non-5G-connected and 5G-connected.

    Excellent. I can just ignore the "5G-connected" tier, then.

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