Interview With Rajen Vagadia, Country Manager, Qualcomm India

Qualcomm has always been at the forefront of global communication technology evolutions. From human beings to just ‘things’, the solutions from the San Diego headquartered firm has helped communication among them possible. After revolutionising mobile communication systems with its Snapdragon platform, the firm has now put its focus on IoT, AI and 5G. TeleAnalysis caught up with Rajen Vagadia, Country Manager & Senior Director, Business Development at Qualcomm India to understand the firm’s vision around these new technologies. Excerpts:

Q.How do you see communication technologies evolving in recent years and what vision Qualcomm holds for the future?

Rajen Vagadia : The electronic market segment in India is one the largest in the world and according to a report, it’s believed to reach $400 billion by 2020 . India is currently the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with a subscriber base of 1.17 billion and has registered strong growth in the past decade and half. With 493.96 million internet subscribers, as of March 2018, India stands second in terms of total internet users. As of June 2018, overall tele-density stood at 89.72 per cent. Urban tele-density stood at 158.16 per cent and rural tele-density at 57.99 per cent. India’s smartphone market grew 14 per cent year-on-year to a total of 124 million shipments in 2017, as per IDC. Availability of affordable smartphones and lower rates are expected to drive growth in the Indian telecom industry

The number of smartphone users in India is estimated to increase to about 442.5 million in 2022. India is the world’s second largest market for smartphone after China. About 134 million smartphones were sold across India in the year 2017. The outstanding development of the smartphone market in India is closely associated with the increasing popularity of mobile smartphone usage in the country.


Rajen Vagadia, Country Manager, Qualcomm India

Q. What are the areas Qualcomm is shifting its focus to besides remain focused on mobile platforms?

Rajen Vagadia : Qualcomm inventions are the foundational technologies that others build upon—inventing new industries and applications that have global impact. From 5G to artificial intelligence, from IoT to automotive and extended reality applications, Qualcomm is inventing the technologies the world loves

Q. 5G is around the corner and your company wishes to be at the heart of this new development. What aspects of 5G is Qualcomm looking at?
Rajen Vagadia : As we did in both 3G and 4G, we are excited about collaborating with leading operators and industry stakeholders to accelerate the path to 5G . We are very pleased to be working with OEMs, operators, infrastructure vendors and standards bodies across the world, and are on track to help launch the first 5G mobile hotspots by the end of 2018, and smartphones using our next-generation mobile platform in the first half of 2019

Q. From India perspective, how do you see the country approaching the new technology – 5G?
Rajen Vagadia : India is going through massive digital transformation, enabled by high-speed data services. India is the second-largest and fastest-growing telecom market and has improved its stance significantly with massive success of 4G services—broadband subscription grew four times from 99 million to 412 million since 2015 . 5G technology has the potential for ushering a major societal transformation in India by enabling a rapid expansion of the role of information technology across manufacturing, educational, healthcare, agricultural, financial and social sectors

The Indian government is aiming to commercially introduce 5G services in the country by the end of 2020, almost in line with rest of the world. 5G is the next generation of mobile Internet connectivity that would offer much faster and more reliable networks, which would form the backbone for the emerging era of Internet of Things (IoT)

Rather than following global counterparts, India should focus on its own use-cases to develop policies and roadmaps around 5G.

Q. IoT is another area that is gaining new grounds – both with the consumers as well as industries. How do you see India placed in it?
India is positioned and poised to be a leader in IoT in a big way with over one billion potential customers in India, directly or indirectly. It is a tech savvy market and huge amount of data is being consumed, data at available and affordable prices. Qualcomm is working with various stakeholders for solutions across areas like WiFi, 4G/5G and IoT. The company is also developing solutions for smart phones.

Q. What role Qualcomm is playing in IoT, both in India as well as globally, from consumer as well as industry perspective?
Qualcomm Technologies is focused on driving IoT through its collaboration with established firms and start-ups, big and small, to enable consumer and industrial IoT along with smart city use cases in India. Qualcomm is collaborating with original design manufacturers(ODMs, and module suppliers to serve both consumer and industrial IoT segments, across applications like smart wearables, vision-intelligent cameras, extended reality devices, point-of-sale products and smart energy metering.

To foster local innovation, Qualcomm started with the “Design in India Challenge” in 2016, and this year it launched the Design in India Program (QDIP) that aims to build a core design technology and innovation hub in India. To enable the transformation of India into a digitally empowered society, QDIP has shortlisted 14 start-ups in the domains of Smart Infrastructure, Biometric Devices, Payment Terminals, Agricultural Technology, Medical Technology and Rural IoT. Besides financial rewards, the 14 start-ups have access to the state-of-the-art Qualcomm Innovation Lab in Bengaluru and Hyderabad along with engineering and technical support to help bring their products to life.

Q. From mobile platform point of view, what can we expect from Qualcomm beyond SD 845 platform? What more can be offered?
We just announced our plans to bring 5G connectivity and a 7nm SoC to power the next era of mobile devices. We will have more information to share Shortly.

Q. How are you placed on automotive platform? Where does India stand there and how you are helping the Indian automakers in this space?
All major global automakers use our technologies. Qualcomm makes significant R&D investments in process technology, modem, connectivity, machine learning, and on-chip compute processors (CPU, GPU, DSP etc.) to keep us on the leading edge of technology. One of our fundamental differentiations is tightly integrated, power optimized computing and connected platforms, which we’ve brought to the automotive industry.

We are currently focused on providing essential innovations for facilitating key aspects of driver assistance, including high speed, low latency connectivity, high-precision positioning, and C-V2X communications. For example, wireless communications provide the vehicle with data that’s impossible to capture with other sensors. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications can complement other car sensors, such as cameras, radar and LIDAR, helping the car “see around corners”, detecting pedestrians or other cars when line-of-sight is obstructed by buildings or other large vehicles. Our modems also help support the reliable, high-speed cloud connectivity required for sensor sharing and critical updates on 3D high resolution maps and road conditions.

For high-precision positioning, our technologies are designed to combine GNSS, accelerometer/inertial sensors and computer vision to cost effectively provide highly accurate, reliable location data – helping an autonomous car, for example, understand where it is relative to other objects on the road and know precisely in which lane of the street it is in.

Q. What are the other areas we can expect Qualcomm to develop its platforms?
Rajen Vagadia : We push the envelope of what is possible in semiconductor and mobile technologies, passionately advancing research, prototyping, and standardization across many industry verticals. We are constantly pushing boundaries of what is possible with AI. Our research areas include 5G, AI, Mobile, IoT, Industrial IoT, Connectivity, ASIC, cellular vehicle communications, wireless, autonomous driving, autonomous robotics, always-on computing vision module, virtual reality, etc.

Beyond chips, Qualcomm uses its technical expertise to design platforms that help customers commercialize IoT products quickly and cost-effectively. The company makes available more than 30 production-ready reference design platforms through a network of original design manufacturers (ODMs) for products including voice-enabled home assistants, connected cameras, drones, virtual reality headsets, lighting, appliances and smart hubs/gateways.

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