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Comms chips

Qualcomm Firms Up Femto Plans

Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) is prepping its own femtocell chipsets even as it licenses out patents for others to develop modules to power the tiny home cellular radios.

San Diego-based Qualcomm has today granted Global Wireless Technologies LLC a worldwide patent license to develop and sell femtocells that use flavors of the CDMA technology Qualcomm pioneered, including multi-mode and so-called "4G" base stations. Airvana Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) are among other vendors already producing or developing CDMA femtocells.

Qualcomm isn't going to be just a licensing agent for CDMA femtocells, however. The firm is also working on its own 3G chipsets for the home base station market. Nick Karter, senior director of business development for Qualcomm Flarion Technologies, told Unstrung recently that the firm is on track to deliver samples in the second half of 2010.

Qualcomm is planning to combine the femtocell radio with the baseband on its chipset, rather than sell separate modules. "That's our key difference," Karter said, adding that he didn't know of any other company doing that level of integration.

Qualcomm appears to be shooting for a product that, through tighter integration, will be smaller and cheaper than current 3G femtocell offerings. The first wave of 3G femtocells is likely to hit in the U.S. later this year, with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) famously claiming that it will be the first to introduce one. (See CTIA: LTE, Android & Femtos.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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