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Pondering the Nokia/Qualcomm lovefest

Posted: 23 Feb 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Congress Mobile World? LTE femtocells? 3G?

So my week here is nearly done at the Mobile World Congress. Time to reflect on the most interesting, surprising, consequential, controversial or quirky thing I have seen, heard or learnt.

And in the end it is notat least not immediatelyconnected to Long Term Evolution (LTE) or femtocells, and thank goodness I hear you say.

The most interesting development, is one that we hinted at some time ago when we asked in November, Could Nokia really buy chips from Qualcomm?. Even then a plot was likely being hatched in non-descript intellectual property and licensing lawyers' offices in San Diego, California, and Espoo, or Helsinki.

The answer, yes, came at this show with Qualcomm and Nokia saying they would nuzzle up to each other. The Finnish handset maker is set to develop high-end 3G phones that will use the latest baseband chips from Qualcomm, those that are capable of the kind of data rates we hacks in the MWC press room can only dream of but might just get in three years using our HSPA, HSPA+ and maybe even LTE dongles or smart phones.

Actually, the terms of engagement are not quite clear-cut, but this could be because some lawyers insisted on a prenuptial clause. The wording in the official release is that Nokia is "pleased to be in discussions with Qualcomm" about using the MSM8xxx and 7xxx chipsets in some of its next generation phones. So the wedding is planned, the flowers have been ordered, but the blushing Finnish bride is keeping her options open.

And since the Finns do love a party, lots of guests have been invited to attend the celebrations. Nokia has also extended its pact with Broadcom to include basebands for 3G; Broadcom is already a major baseband supplier for 2G handsets, while that other newlywed ST-Ericsson will get a slice of the action for application processors in next generation 3G handsets and smart phones that use Nokia's S60 platform and thus, the Symbian operating system.

The pact refers to a chip from ST-Ericsson that uses its Nomadik applications processor and integrates the latest in symmetrical multiprocessing courtesy of the dual-core capable Cortex-A9 processor from ARM Holdings plc.

But the most intriguing part of this lovefest is the partnership between Nokia and Qualcomm themselves. In many ways and for many years they have been the competitive drivers of the moblie communications business and to see them gazing lovingly into each others eyes is a major change and slightly disturbing experience. Between them they could surely have developed a complete smart phone platform with the dollars they have spent on lawyers' fees over the past few years, which is no doubt a major reason why they are holding hands.

The acrimonious spats finished just six months ago when Nokia agreed to pay 1.7 billion euros (about $2.1 billion) to be allowed to use Qualcomm technology over the next 15 years.

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