Qualcomm is a wireless telecommunications research and development company based in San Diego, California.


Qualcomm was founded in 1985 by UC San Diego Professor Irwin Jacobs (the company's current chairman), Franklin Antonio, Adelia Coffman, Andrew Cohen, AJ Read, Klein Gilhousern, Andrew Viterbi and Harvey White. 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 by Parviz Nazarian and Neil Kadisha, and specialized integrated circuits for digital radio communications such as a Viterbi decoder.

Qualcomm then began to manufacture CDMA cell phones, base stations, and chips. The first CDMA techology was standardized as IS-95. Qualcomm has since developed newer variations on the same theme. It formerly manufactured both CDMA cell phones and CDMA base station equipment. Qualcomm sold its base station business to Ericsson and its cell phone manufacturing to Kyocera, and has focused on developing and licensing wireless technologies and selling ASICs that implement them.

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

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) uiOne.

Mobile phone standards

Qualcomm is the inventor of CDMAone (IS-95), 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 is a satellite constellation comprised of 44 active satellites used mainly for voice telephony using hand-held satellite phones, asset tracking and data transfer using mobile satellite modems. It is based upon the CDMA 2000 standard but requires proprietary hardware to access. Some of this hardware is also 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 planning to launch a new constellation supporting EV-DO in 2009.

Legal issues

Since April 2006, a dispute between Reliance Communications and Qualcomm over royalty fees has 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 EC.

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.


  • 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.


  • Operating system - BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) is a proprietary cell phone application platform. Unlike J2ME (Java Platform, Micro Edition), BREW is proprietary. 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 OEMs.
  • Email 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 .
  • The company is also in development on a cellular/data 2-way push-to-talk voice communications program called QChat, which is proposed to be the replacement for Nextel's iDEN system as Nextel merges with Sprint. 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 also owns Flash-OFDM creator Flarion Technologies.


Further reading

  • Mock, Dave The Qualcomm Equation. American Management Association. ISBN 0-8144-0818-4.

External links

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