Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated, says that the rollout of 5G, the 5th generation technology standard for cellular networks, will play a “key role” in helping Europe recover from the crippling effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
His comments came during a virtual debate on the issue, organised by the European Internet Forum (EIF), an independent, MEP-led forum specialising in digital policy issues. As part of EIF’s ‘Meet the CEO’ series, MEPs, EIF members and guests have the opportunity to exchange views with key figures in industry.
Mollenkopf heads Qualcomm, a world leading company of engineers, scientists and business strategists that invent breakthrough technologies aimed at transforming how the world connects, computes, and communicates. In his opening remarks, he voiced appreciation for the event on 9 September which, he said, came at a very important time.
“There are so many opportunities related to 5G and now is a big opportunity to accelerate and to move up a gear in the digital transformation” Pilar del Castillo MEP
”The COVID-19 crisis has shown that the more access we have to powerful, flexible and secure networks, the more we can keep working, stay connected with our doctors and keep safe and protected, educate our children, and keep our economies growing and help them rebound and be even stronger than they were before”.
Moderated by EIF’s Director General Maria Rosa Gibellini, participants were informed that the world was facing unprecedented challenges and that the aim therefore was to emerge from the crisis with an “ambitious boost to the economy and robust investments towards a green and digital future.”
Also participating in the hour-long online debate was veteran Spanish MEP Pilar del Castillo, chair of the EIF’s Steering Committee. Both del Castillo and Mollenkopf agreed that 5G technology was key to delivering this ambitious economic boost. Rollout, which began in 2019, will bolster Europe’s economic recovery and resilience.
Mollenkopf recalled that when he was a young engineer, he spent a lot of time in Europe, particularly France and Germany, working on the rollout of 3G technology with some brilliant people. Two thirds of his company’s employees are engineers and, according to him, “It is important that, despite the pandemic, we maintain the ability to collaborate with each other.”
He explained that Qualcomm partners closely with European players on developing and deploying wireless technology across nearly all industrial sectors in Europe, ranging from automotive and smart factories to agriculture and smart cities.
“People understand that the digital economy of the future is really going to build on the plumbing that 5G creates. And so, it is very important to encourage operators to put that plumbing into the ground so that business model experimentation on top of it can occur.”
He praised current efforts on 5G, saying that so far, rollout had been “good”, with a total of 80 5G networks in 40 countries worldwide. Europe, he said, is “doing well”, with 30 5G networks in 15 European countries. He added: “I don’t think any region recognises the importance of standardised technology as much as Europe does.”
Mollenkopf explained, “European efforts to foster strategic autonomy are all about resilience, all about becoming stronger through industrial leadership: You’re taking steps like becoming the leader in the deployment of 5G networks and taking advantage of 5G.”
Del Castillo “welcomed” the opportunity to have an exchange of views with a leading CEO such as Mollenkopf, saying, “There are so many opportunities related to 5G and now is a major opportunity to accelerate and to move up a gear in the digital transformation.”
“European efforts to foster strategic autonomy are all about resilience, all about becoming stronger through industrial leadership” Steve Mollenkopf CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated
While the Coronavirus pandemic, was “unique”, she said it also “illustrates what we need to do on the digitalisation front and the urgency with which we need to do it. It is crucial we show the added value of the EU’s position.” She paid tribute to Qualcomm which - del Castillo said - had been instrumental in the rollout of wireless technology.
“It is playing an important role in the deployment of 5G”. The crisis, she argued, has resulted in a “different” world with both children and adults increasingly working from home and therefore dependent on connectivity. And, according to the senior Spanish EU policymaker, connectivity “is instrumental in Europe’s recovery from the crisis.”
However, for del Castillo, one question remains: how far away is Europe in deploying 5G and therefore realising its potential? She said she was optimistic but concluded by saying “It is clear we still have work ahead.”