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For Qualcomm, the Future Is 5G

If there's anything Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf likes talking about, it's 5G, the speedier successor to current 4G LTE mobile networks

In a discussion at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colo. on Wednesday, he spoke in detail about why 5G, a technology that carriers are now rolling out, is getting off to such a good start.

Mollenkopf attributed much of 5G's early interest among carriers—it's now available in several U.S. cities from companies like Verizon[/hotlink— to the growing consumer appetite for data.

"5G gives carriers the ability to keep up with the demand of wireless video, and demand is going up very dramatically," he said. "There's a tremendous amount of demand for data."

But satisfying customers who want to consume more data isn't the only benefit. He added that carriers that shift their networks from 4G LTE to 5G are finding that their costs reduced to one-thirtieth of their current expenses.

"If you don’t have a good 5G deployment strategy, you’re going to be left behind," Mollenkopf said of carriers. "And the history of the industry is, if you’re left behind, you never catch up."

That could bode well for consumers who are anxiously awaiting 5G. With help from the technology, mobile Internet speeds will dramatically increase compared to 4G LTE. In some cases, they could be faster than home Internet connections. That's why, Mollenkopf said, some carriers are considering using 5G to compete with traditional cable and fiber Internet providers.

Mollenkopf acknowledged that 5G isn't available everywhere today, but said that he believes 5G will become the de facto cellular connection in 2020.

"Next year, 5G will be more ubiquitous," he said. "It’ll be difficult to not buy a 5G phone next year."

Previous reports have said that Apple is working on a new iPhone for 2020 that will include a 5G chip made by Qualcomm. Samsung already sells the Galaxy S10 5G, which uses a Qualcomm chip, and plans to release more 5G phones next year.

Ultimately, this all could bode well for Qualcomm, Mollenkopf said. He believes that carriers and smartphone makers will increasingly buy 5G chips from Qualcomm over the next several years and push the company's revenue higher. Best of all for Qualcomm, at least, is that Qualcomm should be able to sell all of those chips at higher prices than it currently charges for its 4G chips, Mollenkopf said.

Investors certainly seem as optimistic as Mollenkopf. Qualcomm's shares were up from $54 six months ago to $76.55 in mid-day trading on Wednesday.