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Thanks to 5G, Qualcomm Stock Can Enjoy a Slow and Steady Ride Higher

Josh Enomoto

Over recent years, the Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) narrative has been dogged by various pressures and controversies. At first, Singapore-based Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO) proposed an aggressive $117 billion takeover bid for QCOM stock. But in a move that had bipartisan support, President Donald Trump axed the hostile takeover, citing national security concerns. That gave Broadcom little choice but to back down.

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The other pressing issue impacting Qualcomm stock was the underlying technology firm’s legal battle with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Notably, Apple had major grievances with Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices. From its perspective, QCOM charged Apple royalty fees for technologies unrelated to the chipmaker.

Famously, Apple CEO Tim Cook once quipped that Qualcomm’s business practice was like “buying a sofa” from a company that charges “a different price depending upon the house that it goes into.” On the other hand, Qualcomm accused Apple of using its patented tech free of charge.

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Either way, whether you’re on team Qualcomm or team Apple, the bottom line was this: The bitter dispute didn’t serve the longer-term case for QCOM stock or AAPL shares. While the former has the innovative prowess, the latter has the rabid fan base. This was a classic knife fight in which both sides were not going to get away unscathed.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, with both organizations squaring away their differences. From this new reality, I believe Qualcomm stock has a net positive pathway to steady upside gains.

Clearly, the biggest distractions for QCOM stock have been eliminated. As InvestorPlaces’s Chris Markoch stated recently, this is probably the beginning of the QCOM narrative. The 5G rollout will spark multiple revenue streams.

5G Opportunities Facilitate a “Slow Burn” for QCOM Stock

First and foremost, the settlement between Qualcomm and Apple creates growth opportunities for at least the next few years. As the leader in 5G modems, QCOM can fill a gap that has previously impeded Apple. Of course, this is a big positive for Qualcomm stock.

However, this freshly restored relationship may change over time. In the backdrop of the legal battle, Apple looked to Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) to provide 5G modems. When that plan failed, Apple bought Intel’s 5G modem business unit. It’s going to take some time to catch up, but AAPL will eventually go in-house with its smartphone semiconductors.

Luckily, the Apple business is just one component of the overall 5G picture for QCOM stock. Recently, Qualcomm revealed that it has partnerships with over 30 original equipment manufacturers to launch 5G fixed wireless access equipment. With a target time frame of next year, investors won’t have to wait long to start seeing results.

Utilizing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System as a reference architecture, this 5G FWA equipment will facilitate home- and enterprise-level 5G internet service. What makes this FWA platform impressive is its modularity. Because it can accept “virtually any combination” of 5G spectrum and modes, telecom firms should be able to incorporate this tech into their existing 5G infrastructure.

Granted, this might sound like granular nerd talk. However, the modularity of Qualcomm’s FWA is crucial for Qualcomm stock. Contrary to what some might believe, the 5G rollout isn’t a light switch. Instead, it’s a gradual transition.

Telecom firms must migrate the existing spectrum to accommodate 5G over time. During this transition, overlap between old and new tech will occur. That’s why the FWA equipment’s modularity is critical, which essentially provides a bridge for telecom networks.


The Lingering Trade War

Despite Qualcomm’s dominant presence in 5G and the opportunities that it presents, not everything is positive for QCOM stock. Most notably, the U.S.-China trade war presents a serious risk, not just to Qualcomm but the broader tech industry.

In its most recent quarter, QCOM disappointed Wall Street with sour revenue figures. However, management didn’t include licensing revenue with Huawei due to a royalties dispute. Moreover, the transition to 5G means less demand for 4G-related equipment.

While the trade war may limit Qualcomm stock in the nearer term, ultimately, I see this situation as longer-term positive. I say this because for this particular circumstance, China needs Qualcomm more than Qualcomm needs China.

As China and other emerging markets witness broader rises in consumer strength, they’ll want the best. Thus, merely doing 5G as a technicality won’t be enough. Clearly, QCOM is the 5G leader, which is why our international adversaries want to steal from it.

As such, the trade war has exposed China’s shady business practices while presenting American companies as virtuous victims. The drama may impact Qualcomm now, but again, in the long run, even geopolitics could be favorable to QCOM stock.

As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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