Qualcomm gives 3G-less operators a shot in the arm

BREWing up nicely...
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

BREWing up nicely...

Wireless chipset and intellectual property company Qualcomm is touting a software platform it has licensed in the US and Far East as a way for mobile operators to increase the money they make from each subscriber - and that even includes operators in Europe who have never used the company's CDMA technology. Qualcomm's Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless, or BREW, is shipped with phones much like a mobile version of Windows. Though not an operating system (OS), it allows applications - written in C, C++ or even Java, usually cited as a competing technology - to be written once for any BREW handset. The idea is that Qualcomm licenses BREW to operators, who then make money when an end user downloads an application, such as a game, to their handset for a set fee. Developers may take away about 80 per cent of that download charge, with Qualcomm, the mobile operator and other parties splitting the rest. "What we end up getting is different in different markets but it's a pretty small percentage [of the charge]," said Peggy Johnson, president, Qualcomm Internet Services. "When we did our own handsets, we ended up writing a layer which allowed us to put applications on handsets. We ended up deciding to do this more widely." That software layer became BREW. Qualcomm ended up selling its handset business to Kyocera, as it did its infrastructure unit to Ericsson, in part ending a bitter dispute and paving the way for 3G standards. Now, the company that pioneered second-generation CDMA mobile technology - in the face of the more successful GSM and a third standard used mostly in the Americas called TDMA -is riding high, with customers in Korea, Japan and the US launching 3G networks with colour phones and innovative services using high-speed data rates. They are based on a CDMA2000, which is the other serious 3G alternative to the W-CDMA, or UMTS, networks that NTT DoCoMo has rolled out in Japan and dozens of operators in Europe are committed to. Qualcomm confirmed it has been in talks with European operators about BREW. The company is unlikely to see its CDMA2000 standard make headway in the continent but Qualcomm is eager to see W-CDMA launch to make royalties from its core CDMA patents and sell chipsets, some of which will even allow roaming between GSM, W-CDMA and CDMA2000 networks. While developers will welcome any model which gives them an incentive to provide compelling content - as operators should - Qualcomm has cited figures from Korean operator KTF which shows ARPU (average revenue per user) increasing as subscribers move from 2G phones, to 3G phones with grey screens, to 3G phones with colour screen, to 3G colour phones running BREW. Currently there are 2.5 million users running applications on BREW worldwide and 15 million BREW-enabled handsets sold. Tomorrow we'll be bringing you an interview with Qualcomm CEO Irwin Jacobs
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