Interview With Dinesh Prasad, Head-Devices, Qualcomm India & South Asia


Dinesh Prasad, Head-Devices, Qualcomm India & South Asia

Though there is hardly any LTE service in the country, the adoption of 4G smartphones in the Indian mobile phone market has been fabulous in the last one year and half. It is estimated that there are more 4G phones sold in the country during this period than there are LTE subscribers in the country since the launch. A lot of credit goes to the gradually developing LTE ecosystem in the country, at least from the devices front. The popular 4G phones in the market are available at less than half the price of the 3G phones when they were initially launched. So, what’s driving this growth? Well, we caught up with Dinesh Prasad, Head of Devices at Qualcomm India and South Asia, a company that is central to this tremendous growth, to understand the industry dynamics. He talks about how Qualcomm, the San Diego headquartered company, that claims to be at the heart of the LTE ecosystem, is helping the LTE ecosystem to grow and mature not only globally but also in India, how the company’s QRD helping the small but ambitious Indian handset players to face the competition and make a mark in the market. Excerpts:

What does a ‘device-head’ at Qualcomm do?

Simply put, my role is to work with the device manufacturers and help strengthen the device ecosystem. There are multiple domains and there are multiple end customers for us. We as a company remain at the center of the ecosystem. As a company we handle different verticals, be it smart devices, Internet of Everything, modems, processors etc. We work closely with various OEMs to help them throughout their journey of bringing out a smartphone – be it the design or the R&D etc.

Could you please elaborate on that part and be specific on how do you help Indian handset makers in their journey?

Its not just about the Indian handset players. Its our philosophy to be at the device ecosystem throughout the globe and we work closely with all of them in the evolution of the device ecosystem. There are many small but aspirational handset companies, who at the initial phase, do not have the right kind of infrastructure for design or research and development. So we developed a program called QRD or Qualcomm reference Design.

Qualcomm’s 100% roadmap is to propagate 4G and strengthen the ecosystem. So the idea was to develop a program wherein small but aspirational handset players can use our facility, our reference design and not get bugged by these kind of challenges. Rather they should focus on their own DNA, their expertise, their go to market strategy.

For device manufacturers who need to compete and win in the dynamic high-volume smartphone segment, QRD brings together the value of the mobile industry leader with specific products, features and programs for emerging markets.  Device manufactures should not have to trade off quality and innovation for price.  The QRD program offers Qualcomm’s leading technical innovation, differentiated hardware and software, easy customization options that save engineering costs and speed time to market, access to an ecosystem of hardware, software and application providers, and testing and acceptance readiness for regional and leading operator requirements.

In the recent past we have noticed the cost of the 4G devices has come down drastically compared to the case of 3G. What is driving the pricing factor of 4G devices?

There was a big shift happened when industry moved from 2G to 3G. It was because industry was moving from voice to data, which required a lot of things including people, processes, understanding of data, change of frequency, change of band in your devices etc. Subscribers were signing up for data plans, and the consumption of data was cautious. With 4G, the story is different.  There is a 3G user base of around 120 million to 130 million.  These 3G guys are driving the growth of 4G. Now lets move towards the economies of 4G which is largely being driven by the global factors. One of the biggest drivers of 4G is the growth of 4G in China. The domestic Chinese LTE market is growing very fast. There are only three operators but they along with the device and component manufacturers, almost developed the 4G ecosystem single handedly for that country. Just not that, it impacted the global as well as Indian 4G market. From a device stand point, the only difference in 3G or 4G is the modem, rest everything are same. So this is going to be far more seamless compared to shift to 3G from 2G.

Most of the smartphones these days are using the Snapdragon platform. How has been the growth since its introduction?

There has been significant growth on this front. There are around 1 billion android smartphones already sold in the global market with our Snapdragon processors. Not only that there are around 85 OEMs using snapdragon platform for their smartphones.

And for India?

India Snapdragon story was no less significant. All most all the Indian handset players are currently using the same, in fact many of them are the first one to deploy our latest processors.

What would be the right kind of pricing for 4G devices in India?

Its already available at 120$ price band, and it only can go south. And if you ask me whether it would come down, then I may say why it would not go down further. 4G services are not yet launched in its entirety and when it gets launched, the competition would rise and it may go down further.

India has 2 different frequency for 4G. Are all of your chipsets support both the bands?

Our 4G modems support not only these 2 bands available in India but almost all the global bands where 4G has been rolled out or to be rolled out. What I mean by saying that is, a handset maker does not have to bother for which country he is making the phones for. Similarly, a customer does not have to worry if he takes his phone from this band to that band. Wherever you go, your 4G phones should work. And that is where we hold our leadership position.

Where do the Indian brands stand in terms of technology adoption compared to MNCs?

They are there where the MNCs are, at times they are ahead of them. In many instances they became the reference for global players.

What kind of data growth you see after 4G becomes mainstream?

It will be many fold. When we shifted from 2G to 3G, the data growth was more than 20x. But when it moves to 4G it would be much more than that. Video consumption is a big issue still now, and it will be resolved with 4G. Some reports say video has been driving data growth in last couple of years. With 4G, it is set for bigger growth.

With the development happening in the Indian handset market and with the fierce competition, where do you see the market heading to? Do you see a kind of consolidation on the cards?

See, India is a huge market, and if you go by some recent reports by the global consulting firms, you would find there is room for everyone. There is hardly any differentiation in the phone itself. All of them reach to the same component makers, they have the same camera, display, processor etc. Then how do you sustain your existence? They would do that with their approach towards the market. Some would want to be aspirational brands, some would be competitive. Some want to target a certain group, some would aim at a certain price band. That’s how you would survive in this market, and that’s what they are doing. Obviously people would fail or succeed that depends on their strategy. But I don’t see there is any coherent challenge. There’s space for every player to grab some 5% market share here.


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