We have the first-mover advantage in 5G, the 'biggest change' to the cellular industry in decades: Qualcomm CEO

  • Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf discusses the future of 5G cellular service and its effect on the cellular industry as a whole with CNBC's Jim Cramer.
  • Qualcomm, a provider of semiconductor and telecommunications equipment, has the first-mover advantage, the Mollenkopf says.
  • 2019 will be the year of 5G for many countries including the United States, the CEO tells Cramer.

Qualcomm is in a winning position when it comes to the fifth generation of cellular service, more commonly known as 5G, and the shift to 5G communication will come as soon as 2019, CEO Steve Mollenkopf told CNBC on Wednesday.

"The entire world is going to transition to 5G," Mollenkopf said in an exclusive interview with Jim Cramer. "We think it's a big opportunity for us. We think the first mover gets the advantage, and we're going to be it."

The rollout will start in the spring of 2019, with the United States and Korea being first to adopt 5G, followed by Europe and China later in the year.

"This is the first generation of wireless where the Chinese carriers will launch wireless service in the same calendar year as the American carriers. That never happened before," Mollenkopf said on "Mad Money." "And it's because it is so important, not only to the cellular industry, but to many other industries like automotive or health care or the industrial companies. So it's going to be a very transformative change and it's definitely captured the attention of governments."

The immediate effects for consumers will be much faster internet speeds and "more capability" coming from carriers like Verizon, said Mollenkopf, whose company makes semiconductors and telecommunications equipment.

The Qualcomm chief said the transition will affect the entire cellular industry and, eventually, every organization that wants to connect to the internet.

"This is the biggest change, I think, to the industry — meaning the cellular industry and the relevancy of its roadmap — that I've seen during the 25 years that I've worked at Qualcomm," he told Cramer.

The rise of 5G could even mark the beginning of the end for cable television, the CEO suggested.

"If [consumers] look at their wireline spend and they decompose it into, 'There's a certain amount that I pay for content and a certain amount that I pay for the transport or the connectivity,' there's a real opportunity with 5G," he said. "The economics are such that the wireless operators can just give you the connectivity piece and you can bring your over-the-top service."

Younger consumers are already starting to adopt this logic, leading to a decline in cable television viewership and the early innings of the "business model evolution" that 5G will bring, the CEO said.

"They spend much less time on linear TV. Now, we are going to provide the technology to enable that to happen," Mollenkopf said. "That's just one of probably 30 different industries that will be disrupted by 5G."

Qualcomm's stock ended Wednesday trading 1.94 percent higher, at $56.65 a share. Also on "Mad Money," Mollenkopf forecast an end to his company's ongoing dispute with Apple.

Watch Steve Mollenkopf's full interview here:

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