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More from MWC2013: Qualcomm – they made smartphones possible

March 25th, 2013 |  Published in Mobile World Congress 2013


MWC Qualcomm


25 March 2013 – Qualcomm really know how to get the technology world excited. It is pretty much the world leader in everything involving mobile semiconductors. It makes the most sophisticated 4G modems, have excellent RF, and can roll a killer applications processor to boot. It’s “next generation” super-speedy Snapdragon 600 system-on-chip is in Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S IV.  Snapdragon goes across the entire spectrum with Snapdragon 200, 400, 600 and 800.  Here is a great overview shot at MWC to give you an idea:

Although my favorite was Qualcomm’s Wi-Fi coffee machine, a concept gadget hooked up to a Qualcomm chip that can be controlled via a tablet which tells you when your brew is ready:


Some history

Consumers themselves are barely aware that Qualcomm’s wireless chips are powering their everyday lives and that Paul Jacobs, its chairman of the board and chief executive officer, has probably done as much for the smartphone as the late Steve Jobs. Qualcomm has grown by combining wireless, processing and graphics power on a single chip. And perhaps to put it unfairly, in the industry’s mind it is the leader of the mobile era, in the same way Intel is identified with the fading personal computer one.

And what a history. Qualcomm’s success is founded on a technology created by Hedy Lamarr, both gorgeous and uber movie star and master inventor. In 1942, while a working Hollywood actress, she patented a frequency-switching radio system for guiding torpedoes … just as a sideline. Seventy years on, Qualcomm overtook the market capitalisation of Intel, still the world’s biggest chipmaker by revenues, as investors saw more growth in smartphones and other mobile devices than in PCs.

Jacobs had foreseen the usefulness of phones for activities other than voice calls much earlier.  He is often quoted in the press about his “epiphany” while sitting on a beach in Maui, Hawaii, in the 1990s. He typed in a search request for a nearby sushi restaurant on a primitively internet-enabled Qualcomm phone and saw the answer come back.  “All of a sudden, the world was a different place for me with a mobile phone and I just knew the smartphone was going to happen,” he says. But is first solution for a handset “would have horrified an Apple iPhone designer”.  He had a meeting and said “this is what I want to do” and picked up a cellphone and a Palm and he duct-taped them together.  And the final product was … about as thick as the one he demonstrated.

He studied electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, writing his doctorate thesis on robotics. He joined Qualcomm as an engineer in 1990 and rose through the ranks to succeed his father as chief executive in 2005.

LTE Broadcast

At MWC they had multiple demonstrations of LTE Broadcast which enables mobile network operators to adjust coverage and capacity dynamically as needed, allowing for more efficient spectrum and network use. It means an easing of congestion on carriers’ mobile data networks to make all kinds of streamed multimedia content more accessible and cheaper for consumers.

Similar to how television signals are broadcast over a specific part of the radio spectrum, LTE Broadcast would take up a small part of a carrier’s wireless frequency to broadcast certain live events, YouTube videos and any other data such as stock, weather and news updates. Cell phones equipped with the proper receivers would then be able to watch a live broadcast on their mobile devices without having to download or wait for video streams to buffer.

Putting data in broadcast mode reduces congestion but makes the most sense in situations where everyone is watching the same newscast, sports match, or other special piece of content at the same time. In such situations, using LTE Broadcast mode, a carriers’ transmitter needs to just send a signal out over one channel rather than separate ones for each mobile device. That’s how the traditional TV broadcast works: it doesn’t matter if 100 or a million people are watching, because the content is out there for the taking.

The software in a carrier’s base station can tweak the LTE signal to include one or more channels that work in broadcast mode–enabling multiple users to receive the same content at the same time.

Carriers have made no announcements on what precise services may emerge, or when, but there are numerous media “hints” that the goal is to  have LTE Broadcast technology for the 2014 Super Bowl.   Super Bowl over LTE Broadcast to mobile customers.

 They distributed an excellent white paper “Content for All – The Potential for LTE Broadcast/eMBMS” which you can download by clicking here.

And for a good overview watch this video:


For our full Mobile World Congress 2013 coverage click here.

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