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Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego
Qualcomm ( ) is a wireless telecommunications research and development company, as well as the largest fabless chip supplier in the world, based in San Diegomarker, Californiamarker.

Corporate history

Qualcomm was founded in 1985 by UC San Diegomarker Professor Irwin Jacobs, Andrew Viterbi, Harvey White, Adelia Coffman, Andrew Cohen, Klein Gilhousen, and Franklin Antonio. Jacobs and Viterbi had previously founded Linkabit. Qualcomm's first products and services included the OmniTRACS satellite locating and messaging service, used by long-haul trucking companies, developed from a product called Omninet owned by Parviz Nazarian and Neil Kadisha, and specialized integrated circuits for digital radio communications such as a Viterbi decoder.

In 1990 Qualcomm began the design of the first CDMA-based cellular base station, based upon calculations derived from the CDMA-based OmniTRACS satellite system. This work began as a study contract from AirTouch which was facing a shortage of cellular capacity in Los Angeles. Two years later Qualcomm began to manufacture CDMA cell phones, base stations, and chips. The initial base stations were not reliable and the technology was licensed wholly to Nortel in return for their work in improving the base station switching. The first CDMA technology was standardized as IS-95. Qualcomm has since helped to establish the CDMA-2000, WCDMA, and LTE cellular standards.

In 1997, Qualcomm paid $18 million for the naming rights to the Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, renaming it to Qualcomm Stadiummarker. The naming rights will belong to Qualcomm until 2017.

In 1999, Qualcomm sold its base station business to Ericsson, and later, sold its cell phone manufacturing business to Kyocera. The company was now focused on developing and licensing wireless technologies and selling ASICs that implement them.

In 2000, Qualcomm acquired Snaptrack, the inventor of the assisted-GPS system for cellphones, branded as gpsOne. The Snaptrack patents describe how a cellphone can acquire a GPS signal rapidly using timing information sent from the base station. This reduces the searching time for geolocation from minutes down to roughly one second.

In October 2004, Qualcomm acquired Trigenix Ltd, a mobile user interface (UI) software development company, based in Cambridge, UK. After integrating the company, Qualcomm re-branded their interface markup language and its accompanying integrated development environment (IDE) as uiOne.

In 2006, Qualcomm purchased Flarion Technologies. Flarion is the creator of the Flash-OFDM wireless base station, and the inventor of the "flash" beaconing method and several other innovations in OFDM communications.

Mobile phone standards

Qualcomm is the inventor of CDMAone , CDMA 2000, and CDMA 1xEV-DO, which are wireless cellular standards used for communications. The company also owns significant number of key patents on the widely adopted 3G technology, W-CDMA. The license streams from the patents on these inventions, and related products are a major component of Qualcomm's business.

Satellite phone network

Qualcomm participated in the development of the Globalstar satellite system along with Loral Space & Communications. It uses a low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation comprising 44 active satellites. The system is used for voice telephony via hand-held satellite phones, asset tracking and data transfer using mobile satellite modems. The system was designed as a normal IS-95 system, and used the satellite as a "bent pipe" or "repeater" to transfer cellular signals from the handset to the terrestrial base station. Unlike the Iridium system, which routes phone calls between satellites, the Globalstar satellite must always be able to see both the handset and the base station to establish a connection, therefore, there is no coverage over the Earth's poles where there are no satellite orbits. Some of the Globalstar hardware is manufactured by Qualcomm. Like other satellite phone networks Globalstar went bankrupt in 1999, only to be bought up by a group of investors who are currently running the system. Those investors plan to launch a constellation supporting EV-DO in 2009.

Legal issues

In April 2006, a dispute between Reliance Communications and Qualcomm over royalty fees cost Qualcomm approximately $11.7b in market capitalization.. In July 2007, Reliance and Qualcomm decided to bury the hatchet and agreed to expand the use of CDMA technology in India.

In June 2007, the U.S. International Trade Commission blocked the import of new cell phone models based on particular Qualcomm microchips. They found that these Qualcomm microchips infringe patents owned by Broadcom. Broadcom has also initiated patent litigation in U.S. courts over this issue.

At issue is software designed to extend battery life in chips while users make out-of-network calls. In October, an ITC administrative judge made an initial ruling that Qualcomm violated the Broadcom patent covering that feature and the commission later affirmed the decision.

Sprint Nextel Corp. is using a software patch from Qualcomm to get around a U.S. government agency ban on new phones with Qualcomm chips.

In August 2007, Judge Rudi Brewster held that Qualcomm had engaged in litigation misconduct by withholding relevant documents during the lawsuit it brought against Broadcom and that Qualcomm employees had lied about their involvement.

Qualcomm's role in 3G

The current UMTS air interfaces are for the most part based on Qualcomm patents, and royalties from these patents represent a significant part of Qualcomm's revenue. Qualcomm's control over 3G technology and the revenue connected to licensing is a driving force behind many developments within the mobile sector.

This followed a series of patent-related lawsuits and antitrust complaints, spearheaded by Broadcom, in the US.In 2006, Broadcom started a series of patent-related lawsuits and antitrust complaints against Qualcomm to get what Broadcom regarded fair terms for access to the W-CDMA technologies. Broadcom was soon joined by Nokia and others, and complaint were also filed in the ECmarker.

The Chinese TDSCDMA 3G technology was developed primary to avoid Qualcomm licensing fees, although Qualcomm claims that the Chinese technology still infringes on many Qualcomm patents.

October 2008, Nokia announced it will make a one time payment of $2.29 billion (US) to Qualcomm as part of its patent agreement with the company.


  • Tracking devices - OmniTRACS is a two-way satellite communications and geolocation trailer tracking technology designed for the over-the-road transport market. As of summer 2005, over 567,000 units have been shipped to transport companies on 4 continents.

  • Semiconductors - Qualcomm designs various ARM architecture CDMA and UMTS modem chipsets designated Mobile Station Modem (MSM), baseband radio processors, and power processor chips. These chipsets are sold to mobile phone manufacturers such as Kyocera, Motorola, Sharp, Sanyo, LG and Samsung for integration into CDMA and UMTS cell phones. Although a "fabless" semiconductor company, meaning Qualcomm does not engage in the actual manufacturing process, the chips the firm has designed are powering a significant number of handsets and devices world wide, both in CDMA and UMTS markets. As of summer of 2007, Qualcomm is among the top-ten semiconductor firms, after Intel, Texas Instruments, Samsung, and a few others.

  • Satellite phones - Qualcomm manufactures some of the handsets used on the Globalstar network.

  • MediaFLO - Qualcomm is the inventor of the MediaFLO system, based upon OFDM, which transmits 12-15 television channels within 6 MHz of spectrum. Qualcomm has standardized the lower layers of this design in TIA, and manufactures chips and software to add this television capability to cellphones.

  • QChat - QChat is a cellular/data 2-way push-to-talk voice communications program. Qchat will replace iDen as Iden is phased out over the coming years. Nextel's original push-to-talk technology operates on the iDen network, but Qualcomm's Qchat push-to-talk operates on the EV-DO Revision A mobile broadband network. Sprint-Nextel's first Qchat phones were released in June 2008. Both iDen and Qchat handsets are sold under the Nextel brand.

  • Qualcomm Gobi - Qualcomm Gobi is a mobile broadband technology that connects laptops and UMPCs to the Internet via 3G cellular networks around the world. Gobi is the first built-in, 3G modem with the ability to connect you to both EVDO and HSPA cellular networks using a single embedded device.

  • mirasol Displays - mirasol Displays are the world's first and only reflective, bistable display based on IMOD technology. Qualcomm's mirasol dislays use ambient light as their source of illumination and consume almost no power when the image is unchanged. This results in a very low power display solution that is visible even in direct sunlight.


  • Operating system - BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) is a proprietary cell phone application platform. Unlike J2ME (Java Platform, Micro Edition), BREW is a licensed (i.e. not open) product. Unlike some J2ME implementations, BREW is designed so that the platform rejects unsigned applications. In order to have an application signed, a developer must pay a testing fee to National Software Testing Labs (NSTL), which then can approve or deny the request. This allows carriers to maintain control over the applications that run on their customers' phones. BitPim is a popular open source program which can access the embedded filesystem on phones using Qualcomm MSMs via a cable or Bluetooth. It should be pointed out that signing systems are also used in J2ME, and signing is often required by carriers and OEM.

  • Speech codec - Qualcomm has developed an audio codec for speech called PureVoice, which besides use on mobile phones was also licensed for use in the very popular Chinese instant messaging software Tencent QQ

  • Eudora client - Qualcomm formerly developed and distributed Eudora, which it acquired in 1991 from its author Steve Dorner. Qualcomm ceased sales of Eudora on May 1, 2007. Qualcomm has committed to co-operating with Mozilla developers to develop a Eudora-like version of Thunderbird, called Project Penelope.

  • Eudora servers - Qualcomm formerly developed and sold email servers for multiple platforms, including WorldMail for Windows and EIMS (Eudora Internet Mail Server) for Macintosh. Qualcomm no longer sells these products. Qualcomm continues to maintain and distribute the popular open-source Qpopper for Unix and Linux.

See also



  1. [1], Qualcomm San Diego page.
  2. India costs Qualcomm $12 bn
  3. Qualcomm, RCom bury hatchet
  4. Judge Brewster Benchslaps Qualcomm Lawyers, Wall Street Journal Law Blog, 8 August 2007.
  5. L’Affaire Qualcomm: Judge Sanctions Six Lawyers, Wall Street Journal Law Blog, 8 January 2008.
  6. Qualcomm issues Nokia licensing warning, Wireless Watch, 25 April 2006.
  8. Qualcomm PureVoice is acknowledged in QQ2008's installation splash screen and in its license.txt
  9. Eudora page
  10. Penelope - MozillaWiki

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