Qualcomm eyes 3G growth in SEA

Mobile chipset maker sees cheap mobile phones as opportunity to drive shift from 2G to 3G networks in emerging regions and bridge digital divide, says company exec.

Chipset maker Qualcomm sees Southeast Asia as a significant region and expects the growth of affordable smartphones to drive the shift from 2G networks to 3G networks in these emerging Asian markets.

In a Webcast media briefing Wednesday, John Stefanac, Qualcomm's president for Southeast Asia and Pacific said the company is closely monitoring the shift from 2G to 3G networks in emerging markets, which it believes will be driven by smartphones.

Quoting estimates from Wireless Intelligence, he noted that 3G subscription in 2014 will grow to more than 2.8 billion, compared with 1.2 billion in 2010. By 2014, 75 percent of total broadband connections in emerging regions will be mobile, he added.

According to Stefanac, the Southeast region is important not only because of the growth of traditional mobile devices but also growth in new device categories such as tablet computers.

To target price-sensitive emerging markets in the region, Qualcomm is "very committed" to driving the cost of smartphones to the US$100 pricepoint, said Cristiano Amon, the company's senior vice president of product management, CDMA Technologies.

In fact, Amon said entry level smartphone is a "key priority" for the chipset maker as it continues working with its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners.

He also predicted that the company's Snapdragon processors, which were developed for high-end phones and are now available in mid-tier smartphones, will likely be included in entry-level phones as the mobile industry gains scale.

He noted that the computing industry has seen a "transformation" in which mobile phones are now becoming general purpose computing devices. This also presents a great opportunity to bridge the digital divide in emerging markets, he added.

Elaborating on the company's plans on mobile operating systems, Amon said the Google Android plays an important role. There are currently more than 130 phone designs running Qualcomm's chips in the market, in which over 30 manufacturers already ship with Qualcomm chips, he revealed. He touted Qualcomm as the only company with chipsets available for Android devices ranging from the highest level phones to entry-level phones, which he said were nearing the pricepoint of feature phones.

According to Amon, Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor has also been selected to supply the first of Nokia's Microsoft Windows Phone devices.