SINGAPORE: Innovation in consumer technology will continue to “flourish” despite the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, and in particular the actions imposed against tech giant Huawei.
These developments are “just a small hiccup on the way to the US election”, Mr S T Liew, president for Taiwan and Southeast Asia at Qualcomm, said in an interview on Monday (Jun 10).
US chipmaker Qualcomm is caught in the cross-hairs of this trade tussle as it is a key component supplier for the Chinese smartphone maker, with its Snapdragon mobile chip a mainstay in most Android-based phones today. However, it was one of several global tech firms, including chipmakers like Intel and Broadcom, to cut ties with Huawei after the US government put the latter on a trade blacklist in May citing national security concerns.
Developments revolving around Huawei would not dampen innovation, said Mr Liew, pointing out that there are plenty of “eager-eyed, energetic young people” in the world today who are passionate and keen on building on their interests.
“These young people, they look at building blocks from the Qualcomms of the world, and they look around and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to become the next Alibaba and all that, nothing can stop these people, nothing,” the executive said. “Not politics, not disaster, not greenhouse effect.”
“I will tell you that innovation, as long as you allow it to flourish, it will flourish,” the self-professed optimist added.
He pointed out that innovation continues to take place around the world, and in many different areas like financial tech, farming and smart factories such as those set up by Taiwan's Foxconn.
"So to your question (on) will innovation suffer? I don't think so," Mr Liew said. "I think this is just a small hiccup on the way to the US election."
KEY MARKETS STILL KEEN ON 5G
As for whether restricting Huawei’s role in the development of technology, such as in 5G, will create a fragmentation or cause delays to innovating in these areas, Mr Liew said that as an engineer himself, he thinks innovation should be “transcending borders” and be “as open as possible”.
“Are there inconvenience caused by the situation (with Huawei)? Of course there will be inconvenience caused by the situation that we are faced today,” he said.
“Are we all working our way to make sure that as far as the consumer is concerned, that he or she will see a seamless service? I think we’re absolutely going to do that.”
Mr Liew pointed to the fact that 5G deployments are still happening in markets like the US, South Korea and Japan, and that most of the major markets and regions looking to roll out the next-generation mobile network will “continue unimpeded”.
He added that key industry players, Qualcomm included, are still driving the development of 5G together with markets seen as leaders in this field, which bodes well for the future.
SINGAPORE AS R&D BASE FOR 5G SERVICES
Mr Liew, who only last month took over as head of Qualcomm’s Southeast Asia in addition to Taiwan, also shed light on how he sees the different regional markets contributing to the US company’s overall 5G plans.
For instance, in the more advanced markets like Singapore, it will play a “very, very important role” in terms of research and development (R&D) work in the areas of services, system integration and industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
IIoT is a key infrastructure element to enable Industry 4.0 - an area the Singapore Government has been emphasising.
“I think it’d be fantastic if Singapore can look at how to make use of the 5G building blocks … that involve IoT, involve all the attributes of 5G in terms of low latency, massive IoT and big throughput,” he explained.
“How do you make use of these parameters … to make a medical service that is fantastic - remote medical consultation, remote surgery? Those are fantastic R&D situations that companies can dive into.”
However, Mr Liew pointed out that not many companies are thinking about how best to use 5G technology when it does become mainstream, and how to craft services that would play well with the wider global ecosystem.
This, the tech industry veteran said, is a very “rich ground” for R&D and something Singapore can capitalise on.