Interview with Durga Malladi, Qualcomm

Earlier this month, I had the chance to speak with Durga Malladi, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Technology Planning and Edge Solutions with Qualcomm Technologies. We had a discussion about the changing landscape for 5G networks and services, and related technologies that intersect with telecom, including an in-depth chat about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI).

Firstly, we talked about Durga’s role, which he took up earlier this year. He has responsibility for pushing Qualcomm’s development road map across a range of technologies including the evolution of AI, as well as the continuing enhancement of 5G network architectures, and the ways in which 5G can be used by telecom operators to extend their service portfolios. It’s a broad and expansive job but has the wide-ranging perspective needed to bring together a breadth of technology capabilities under a unified strategy.

Next, we talked about the big picture: the intersection between networks, cloud and Internet, and what Qualcomm sees as the most transformative technology trends driving evolution in this context. Durga gave a full and frank response, detailing the interplay between cloud-native networking and hyperscaler Internet infrastructure, and what the telecom industry needs in terms of edge-based processing power to support new and innovative services.

We also talked at length about AI, which has garnered so much attention of late, but has actually been around in various guises for a while now, to address some of the hype and misinformation about generative AI in particular, and Durga shared Qualcomm’s view on AI’s potential across a number of sectors and uses. A particularly interesting topic here was on-device AI, a development we’ve long talked about at CCS Insight.

Qualcomm believes that democratization of AI and machine learning will come with adoption of inference running on user devices rather than in the cloud, which can be a more expensive approach. Durga highlighted an array of devices could support this — ranging from simple Internet of things devices, mobile phones and extended reality headsets to highly sophisticated vehicles — and talked about some of the challenges in making this happen.

Turning to mobile networks specifically, we discussed the next phase of 5G evolution: 5G-Advanced. Durga shared his thoughts on how far along are we in understanding the capabilities of 5G-Advanced and its potential applications, and what the industry needs to do to accelerate deployment in the near and longer term. He touched on Open RAN and virtual RAN, exploring what they bring to 5G-Advanced and how they can help operators cope with the increasing complexity of 5G networks.

It was a fascinating discussion and a pleasure to talk to Durga, to whom we are grateful for sharing his insights. We hope you enjoy watching the interview.