What Price Airgo?

4:30 PM -- Just how much did Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) pay for Airgo Networks Inc. ? And did it get a bargain or a black sheep for its green?

Neither company is saying anything yet. This is standard policy for Airgo, which has never even revealed how much funding it's received over the years. Qualcomm, though, as a public company, must at least give some idea of the costs when quarterly results season rolls around again.

The lack of hard evidence hasn't stopped people from speculating wildly, however. I've seen everything from $100 million to $400 million mentioned as the buyout price.

Any of those speculative valuations would appear to make the acquisition a bargain for Qualcomm. It may have grabbed the hottest company in high-speed, mass-market WiFi for less than the $450 million Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) paid for enterprise-only 802.11 startup Airespace in 2005.

There is, however, a question about how much of Airgo's technology is included in the latest work on the 802.11n specification. Some folks say that the startup's technology is mostly in the optional profiles rather than the mandated standard.

Qualcomm, however, is likely looking at the bigger picture. It appears to be betting that orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) will be the basis of the next ten years -- or more -- of wireless communications, so it needs patents related to the technology and MIMO smart antenna arrays. Airgo and its CEO, Greg Raleigh, have a stack of wireless patents in this field.

I see this acquisition of part of a grand plan on Qualcomm's part to build itself a new licensing cash cow around OFDM IPR as the CDMA milk 'n' honey starts to dry up. If that succeeds, then whatever Qualcomm paid for Airgo could prove to be a bargain.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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