With everyone constantly streaming videos, texting, sharing on social media, and checking email, it’s hard to imagine a time when phone industry experts weren’t on board with the idea of having our mobile devices connect to the Internet. But Dr. Roberto Padovani, executive vice president and fellow at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., can recall earlier days when the industry was conservative about change.
“When I had my first presentation to a cellular industry association about our vision that these devices will have to have high-speed connectivity, they looked at me like I had a thousand heads,” Dr. Padovani said. “They threw me out of the door and said, ‘We don’t need all this stuff. We’re happy with our voice connectivity, so you guys go home.’”
Fortunately, Dr. Padovani persisted. “It took a long time to convince them that that was the right thing to do and eventually, now they can’t get enough.”
His revolutionary vision for a connected future hasn’t gone unrecognized. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) awarded Dr. Padovani the 2016 Alexander Graham Bell Medal “for innovations enabling efficient, wideband, wireless access to the Internet, that is central to all third generation cellular networks.”
“The inventions by Roberto form the basis for all third-generation cellular systems, now in use by over 3 billion subscribers, and have strongly influenced fourth generation LTE, including use of channel state feedback, adaptive modulation, and packet scheduling,” said Dr. Irwin Jacobs, the founding chairman and CEO Emeritus of Qualcomm, in Dr. Padovani’s nomination letter.
The award reflects the work that Qualcomm did as a group in the early days of CDMA and in the high-speed connectivity project, Dr. Padovani said. “I certainly was involved, but I had many people working with me that are incredibly smart and bright, and allowed me to succeed.”
His advice to budding inventors? “It doesn’t work when you sit down and say to yourself, ‘I’m going to invent something.’ Inventions come as they come,” Dr. Padovani said. “You have to create an environment where these ideas can flourish.”