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Qualcomm IP battle hots up

GSM patent attack targets Nokia

In these developing markets, it will be more important for Qualcomm to gain volume sales of its own silicon than to keep license charges high and so push business towards its rivals, while holding back market growth. An indicator of the future was seen recently when LG said it would make a low cost CDMA handset for developing nations using silicon from the only current manufacturer of EV-DO chips apart from Qualcomm, Korea’s Eonex. Such trends are highly dangerous to the CDMA giant.

Qualcomm may have to rework its intellectual property strategies, but it will not make concessions lightly, and in the mean time is looking to expand its base significantly. Europe is now a target, partly because it will be selling its W-CDMA 3G chips, and taking the 450MHz version of CDMA2000 into some countries such as eastern Europe. But it is also stepping up its focus on software technologies to lure in new customers and is talking up the interest of European carriers in MediaFLO and the Brew content download platform, which will be made independent of CDMA.


An important element of the Brew portfolio is uiOne, based on technology bought with UK start-up Trigenix last year. It offers a very graphics rich capability that is now an option within Brew and has just been adopted in the breakthrough O2 deal. Although uiOne gives cellcos more advanced tools to create innovative UIs – one of their most critical demands as they seek to differentiate and brand their services - it can also be put into the hands of end users. Qualcomm sees customized UIs moving alongside wallpaper and ringtones as a major revenue generator that will compensate operators somewhat for the loss of brand control.

Peggy Johnson, head of Qualcomm Internet Services, said: “Our acquisition of Trigenix was a big turning point. We found that in Europe, there was a strong need for differentiation.” Earlier this year, Qualcomm followed the Trigenix purchase with the acquisition of Elata, whose Senses platform for delivering content and applications over the air is platform agnostic and could be adapted for OFDM too. Importantly, Senses can automate the process of targeting specific services to customers depending on their profiles, allowing the carrier’s back end system to recognize a device as it connects to the network.

While bringing Brew facilities to non-Brew devices has immediate attractions, in the longer term, this effort could be even more important. It could be part of a content platform that could be adapted for non-cellular platforms, potentially incorporated with broadband wireless systems such as Flash-OFDM and FLO to create a 4G-style infrastructure that could be marketed to wireline and start-up carriers as well as cellcos and offer a challenge to WiMAX. With this, Qualcomm can make its bid for the convergence market, in which currently non-wireless carriers will add mobility and wireless functions to their mix using technologies such as WiMAX; and some cellcos will build parallel broadband wireless networks to extend reach and add new, high bandwidth services.

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