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Friday, Dec 8, 2023

Qualcomm Has More Connections in High Places


CEO: Paul Jacobs.

Revenue: $10.99 billion in FY 2010; $10.42 billion in FY 2009.

Net income: $3.25 billion in FY 2010; $1.59 billion in FY 2009.

No. of local employees: Not available. However, in response to a San Diego Business Journal Book of Lists survey last year, a company official put Qualcomm’s local full-time employment at 11,847 as of Aug. 1.

Headquarters: Sorrento Mesa.

Year founded: 1985.

Stock symbol and exchange: QCOM on Nasdaq.

Company description: Technology company specializing in hardware and software for mobile devices.

With the addition of 24 Russian satellites to its global positioning systems network, Qualcomm Inc.’s latest chipset now has use of more than 50 satellites to assure the access and accuracy of the GPS applications on cell phones that incorporate Qualcomm’s Snapdragon MSM7x30chips.

Last week, the Sorrento Valley-based company and partner Chinese cellular giant ZTE Corp. released what they call the world’s first smartphone with GPS-GLONASS capability, smart phone model MTS945. The addition of GLONASS to U.S. GPS systems effectively doubles the number of satellites worldwide that users can link to.

“The benefits of using two constellations of satellites are significant,” said Leslie Presutti, senior director of product management. “We are always looking for ways to make our products more competitive, and this will mean better functionality when you’re in a location-based app.”

The announcement last week of access to the Russian GPS network, along with the $3.1 billion acquisition of Wi-Fi upstart Atheros Communications Inc., will keep Qualcomm in the top spot among the smartphone suppliers, according to Linley Gwennap, a cellular industry analyst with The Linley Group in Mountain View.

A Position of Strength

“Qualcomm is at the top because they have the whole package, a fast and agile processor, cellular connections, the recent Wi-Fi acquisition and the step-up in GPS,” Gwennap said. “They are very strong, and they’ve positioned themselves to stay strong.”

According to Gwennap, connecting to GLONASS was “the big thing” at Comdex, the granddaddy of technology expos held in Las Vegas last year.

“It’s a good thing but not a huge thing,” he said. “The big deal is being able to use the U.S. and Russian systems together. That gives you more opportunity to find satellites and get more accurate locations.”

Bluetooth market leader CSR plc., along with Qualcomm’s competitors, Orange County’s Broadcom Corp. and ST-Ericsson linked into GLONASS in February — about the time the Russian government began to hint that cellular products not tied to GLONASS might face a 25 percent import tax.

But, Presutti says, the threat of taxes wasn’t the key driver here.

“Location is so key to cell phones today,” she explained. “If you’re in a big open area where you can see the sky, your GPS works fine — it takes two satellites to determine position. But in the city, where tall buildings and with a larger number of users, like San Francisco or New York, it can be difficult to get accurate positioning.”

With GLONASS raising the number of available satellites to 50 from 26, applications are going to run more smoothly, and the chances of interrupted signals and rerouted signals decreases significantly, she said.

“When you’re relying on turn-by-turn navigation, for example, your experience is going to improve dramatically,” Presutti said. “This is a functionality on the phones that will propagate forward.”

The service stands to improve even more as the Russians bring six additional satellites into the system in the next few years, she said.

Marty Graham is a freelance writer for the San Diego Business Journal.


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