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Qualcomm Bullish About Expanding IoT, FWA & Chip Business In India The American chip giant company has been globally shipping tech products from India; now focusing on creating products and solutions for Indian market

By Shrabona Ghosh

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Savi Soin, president, Qualcomm India

"We want to enable the ecosystem in India," said Savi Soin, president, Qualcomm India. From having a new design center in Chennai specializing in wireless connectivity solutions, to globally shipping the tech developed in India, Qualcomm believes its foundation in the country is very strong.

So, why is it betting big on India? As India adds to its Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Schemes and The Design Linked Incentive (DLI) Scheme, the country has become a lucrative geography for international companies. The PLI schemes for 14 key sectors aim to enhance India's manufacturing capabilities and exports. Similarly, the DLI scheme positions India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) and envisions creation of a vibrant semiconductor chip design ecosystem in the country.

The American chip giant designs semiconductors and wireless telecommunications products. Qualcomm is best known for its Snapdragon processors which power some of the top Android smartphones across the world. In India, it specializes in chip design, wireless modem, multimedia software, DSP & embedded applications and digital media networking solutions.

Burgeoning semiconductor ecosystem

Qualcomm is already designing chips in India, "There are some chips that are designed end-to-end in India and some are through partnership with global teams. India has an important piece of all the semiconductors that we ship globally," Soin explained.

The Indian government has approved three proposals to build semiconductor manufacturing plants in the country worth a combined 1.26 trillion rupees ($15.2 billion). The successful applications belong to Tata Group, Powerchip (PSMC), and a joint venture between CG Power, Renesas, and Stars Micro.

In a LinkedIn post in March, Cristiano Amon, president and CEO of Qualcomm, lauded Tata Group's significant contributions. "Tata's legacy in contributing to India's growth and nation-building efforts is incredibly inspiring. I'm very proud of the collaboration between Qualcomm and Tata Group, which is already unlocking new opportunities across edge AI, automotive, industrial infrastructure, semiconductors, and retail, all aimed at advancing Digital India initiatives. Had a productive discussion with N. Chandrasekaran about his vision for digital transformation and we're excited to help drive this forward," Amon's LinkedIn post read.

Aligning with the CEOs view, Soin added that as India sets up a semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem, Qualcomm will bring its tech and products into the fabs. "We are working with a few of the partners that are looking to make investments in backend of chip making and into fabs in the next few years. However, we can't publicly announce their names."

Like any chip designer, Qualcomm doesn't manufacture its own chips. Instead, it depends on chip manufacturers such as TSMC, Samsung Electronics and GlobalFoundries.

As a fabless company why is Qualcomm important in the Indian market? "We have been present here for more than 20 years. We are in chip design and have established a tech stack here. The other thing that makes us powerful is the scale at which we make chips. Setting up of manufacturing units requires products going into the lines and the application of the right technology is insurmountable. We are providing tech guidance, not only to the government, but also to these private enterprises that are looking to scale up," Soin said.

Mass penetration with 5G Smartphones & FWA

India's smartphone shipments in Q1 2024 (January-March) grew 8 per cent year-on-year YoY in terms of volume and 18 per cent in terms of value. The 5G smartphone shipments captured their highest-ever share of 71 per cent in volume terms and premium segment (>INR 30,000) reached 20 per cent volume share, its highest ever, said Counterpoint in its research.

At the Mobile World Congress 2024 in February, Qualcomm announced that it will launch a 5G smartphone priced under INR 10,000 by the end of the year. The company confirmed working with telecom companies and manufacturers in India to develop the smartphone.

It's been four months since the announcement, what's the status now? "I think we are actively working on bringing the 5G price point down. Qualcomm is excited about the pace at which India has embraced 5G. We feel it's our responsibility to bring 5G more and more into the mass market right here. We are aggressively working towards it," he explained.

At its first developer conference, Qualcomm experienced new innovative use cases that developers are coming up with. "Consumers will get to experience more and more artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities on their smartphones."

The advent of 5G is allowing mobile technology to intersect with the demands of fixed line services and price points. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) enables network operators to deliver ultra-high-speed broadband to suburban and rural areas, supporting home and business applications where fiber is prohibitively expensive to lay and maintain. The cost and complexity of delivering fixed broadband has continually challenged the roll-out of high-speed data services.

"In the FWA space, we are looking at lowering the price point and increasing the ability for more Indians to be connected using fixed wireless. FWA is a big market for Qualcomm in India riding on Wi-Fi 6," he added. Wi-Fi 6 is a substantial upgrade over previous generations, where changes might not be dramatically visible, however, the networking would consist of many incremental improvements that stack up to be a substantial upgrade.

The advent of AI PCs & growth of IoT Biz

AI is changing lots of industries and products, including personal and work computers. Most modern laptops run some AI processes and use AI to optimize connectivity. However, there's a difference between these useful features and the raw power of an AI personal computer (PC), like low performance latency, enhanced audio and visuals and a smart and secure platform.

At Computex 2024, Qualcomm president and CEO, Cristiano Amon, took the stage and revealed what consumers and enterprises can expect across productivity, creativity and entertainment from a new category of PC's: The Copilot+ PCs powered by Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus Platforms. "The Copilot+ PCs powered by Snapdragon X Elite are the fastest, most intelligent Windows PCs ever built with AI integrated throughout the system and can deliver multi-day battery life," said Amon.

When asked about the scope of AI PCs In India, Soin explained that in the second half of 2024, a lot of developments can be seen around AI PCs. "AI PC will help in next level content generation and we are partnering with different companies to bring more AI PCs in India," he said.

For Qualcomm India, the Internet of Things (IoT) business is the next big focus. From software defined vehicles in two-wheelers and four wheelers, to smart meters, modules for drones, IP cameras, Edge AI box, the company is expanding its IoT vertical. "We are just super excited about the possibility of how we can grow our IoT business and that's a big focus for us moving forward."

As an innovation centric company, Qualcomm, is focused on creating products and solutions for the India market.

Shrabona Ghosh

Correspondent

A journalist with a cosmopolitan mindset. I lead a project called 'Corporate Innovations' wherein I cover corporates across verticals and try to tell stories on innovations. Apart from this, I write industry pieces on FMCGs, auto, aviation, 5G and defense. 
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