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QUALCOMM to Acquire Flarion Technologies

QUALCOMM's planned acquisition of Flarion Technologies could have an impact on other companies' plans for mobile data transmission. The reason is Flarion Technologies, which was spun off from Lucent Technologies in July 2000 holds important OFDM patents for mobile wireless data services. Lucent's predecessor, AT&T Laboratories, developed OFDM in the 1950s. A Wall Street Journal article reported Flarion's patents may affect mobile versions of WiMAX.

QUALCOMM's mobile data efforts have concentrated on its CDMA technology, which is the basis of the EvDO high-speed wireless system used by Verizon Wireless for both Internet access and streaming video to cell phones. For one-way transmission to hand-held devices, QUALCOMM has been promoting its MediaFLO technology, which is based on OFDM rather than CDMA. The DVB-H standard also uses OFDM. (See my upcoming RF Technology column in the Sept. 7 issue of TV Technology for a comparison of DVB-H and MediaFLO.)

"Flarion's Flash-OFDM technology is expected to be the only mobile wireless data access solution that supports high data rates at very low latencies (minimized packet and delay losses) over a distributed all-IP wireless network," according to the announcement of Flarion's spin-off from Lucent Technologies in 2000,"The high data rates at very low latencies made possible by flash-OFDM will provide end users with an always-on wireless IP connection that will allow real-time interactive and multimedia applications in a mobile environment."

Having a portfolio of both CDMA and OFDM patents will benefit QUALCOMM. In the press release announcing QUALCOMM's acquisition of Flarion Technologies, Dr. Paul Jacobs, CEO of QUALCOMM said, "With this acquisition, QUALCOMM will be in a stronger position to support advanced development in both CDMA and OFDMA technologies. The combination of Flarion and QUALCOMM's engineering resources greatly strengthens our position as a continued technology innovator and leader in the wireless industry. We believe CDMA will provide the most advanced, spectrally efficient wide area wireless networks for the foreseeable future, but with Flarion we can now more effectively support operators who prefer an OFDMA or hybrid OFDM/CDMA track for differentiating their services."

"With the transition to third-generation CDMA wireless services well underway, CDMA2000 and WCDMA continue to experience substantial growth in markets around the world," said Steve Altman, president of QUALCOMM. "The acquisition of Flarion establishes QUALCOMM as a preeminent developer of emerging OFDMA technologies, enhances our internal OFDMA developments and, when combined with our existing portfolio, results in our owning an industry-leading OFDMA intellectual property portfolio."

For more information on Flarion's Flash-OFDM technology, visit or do a Google search with the words "Flarion" and "OFDM". For the history of OFDM and a description of the technology, see Wi-LAN's whitepaper High Speed Wireless OFDM Communications Systems.