Qualcomm bid to block WiMAX in India

At its Uplinq developer event in San Diego on Wednesday, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs took some time out to talk about the various projects in which the firm is involved, and how he sees the investments panning out.

Mike Hibberd

July 1, 2010

3 Min Read
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At its Uplinq developer event in San Diego on Wednesday, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs took some time out to talk about the various projects in which the firm is involved, and how he sees the investments panning out.

Qualcomm’s antipathy towards WiMAX is well known and Jacobs confirmed that the firm’s recent spectrum purchase in the Indian Broadband Wireless Access auctions was a deliberate bid to block the progress of the alternative 4G technology in favour of LTE.

India had been seen as the last significant opportunity for WiMAX and Jacobs said this assessment was justified. “I really believe that [the BWA] spectrum was all headed for WiMAX,” he said. “Our big bet is on LTE and we wanted to make sure that there was a place for LTE in India. We were concerned that if both of those bands had gone to WiMAX it would have helped to reinvigorate that ecosystem,” he said.

Jacobs said that there are no other markets or regions where Qualcomm’s management feels motivated to make similar strategic spectrum purchases. The size and growth potential of the Indian market made it unique, he said, especially when the relative paucity of the spectrum auctioned by the Indian Government was taken into account.

Nonetheless, Jacobs said, Qualcomm is not shy about participating in spectrum auctions where it sees opportunities. In particular, he said, the firm looks to tranches of spectrum that may not have headline appeal to other organisations. “We like to find a piece of spectrum that other people don’t think is valuable and create a piece of technology to make it valuable,” he said.

An obvious example is the firm’s MediaFLO mobile video technology which is offered by carrier partners AT&T and Verizon in the US, as well as directly by Qualcomm subsidiary FLO TV. But uptake of the service is known to be a source of disappointment among Qualcomm’s senior executives and Jacobs voiced an intention to significantly redefine the firm’s role in the MediaFLO technology play.

“We’re continuing to talk to other players to see if there’s an opportunity to partner up, or sell it,” he said. “There are all sorts of possibilities that could happen. It’s not likely that it will stay as it is today, with cable TV content getting sold primarily through cellular operators. Probably we’ll have a new mixture of technologies and partners, and possibly someone else running the service,” he said.

One opportunity that he said remained to be explored for the MediaFLO technology is a role as a datacasting technology. Media rich content including digital magazines would be much more effectively distributed over a system that is unaffected by the number of recipients, he said.

2010 is the inaugural year for the Uplinq event, which has evolved from Qualcomm’s Brewfest devcon event. The fact that the firm now has significant interests in the success of other mobile operating systems necessitated the shift in pitch, Jacobs said, but the firm remains very much committed to the Brew Mobile Platform, he added.

BMP is being positioned by Qualcomm as the mobile platform of choice in the mass market feature phone segment, where it will likely go up against Symbian as well as Android, which is proving popular for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform. But Jacobs suggested there would be no conflict of interests and that both operators and consumers were keen for a choice in the OS space.

Two years ago, Jacobs said, he had been convinced that BMP was heading for a default position at the low end of the handset market but demand from a range of carriers has brought about a shift in the platform’s fortunes.

About the Author(s)

Mike Hibberd

Mike Hibberd was previously editorial director at Telecoms.com, Mobile Communications International magazine and Banking Technology | Follow him @telecomshibberd

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