Qualcomm CEO: Developers must build bandwidth-efficient apps

SAN DIEGO--Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) chairman and CEO Paul Jacobs opened the company's Uplinq 2010 conference here with a call to developers to create applications that are sensitive to the increasing bandwidth crunch facing operator networks. "Total bits consumed by data traffic now exceeds voice traffic worldwide, but there's only so much spectrum," Jacobs said. "You guys have an obligation to build applications that are as network efficient as possible. We all have a responsibility to be as efficient as we can."

Qualcomm ceo paul jacobsJacobs' Uplinq comments follow on the heels of Qualcomm partner AT&T's (NYSE:T) controversial decision to scrap its $29.99 per month unlimited data pricing plan in favor of offering new subscribers a tiered model based on usage. According to AT&T, the new plans promise to slash monthly fees for as much as 98 percent of its customer base, but some developers have expressed concerns that consumers will be reluctant to download and use bandwidth-intensive applications. Pundits also expect some developers may scale back their applications, eschewing more robust features.

While Jacobs did not identify by name any particular carrier, he noted operators are exploring a number of options to make their networks more efficient, citing 4G solutions like LTE as a means to boost capacity. Jacobs also pointed to Qualcomm's own FLO TV service--although best known as a platform for delivering mobile broadcast content, the company is aggressively positioning FLO as a more general data delivery channel for connected devices. The FLO system transmits data across frequencies separate from those used by mobile networks, operating over the 716-722 MHz spectrum band in the U.S.

Jacobs' Uplinq keynote also touted the virtues of Qualcomm's Brew MP operating system, which promises smartphone functionality across multiple device tiers, enabling application developers to leverage advanced capabilities like touchscreens, rich multimedia, window management and open platform extensibility on mass-market feature phones. "Brew MP is uniquely positioned to drive the proliferation of mass-market cell phones," Jacobs said. "Whichever operating system [developers] choose, we're working to optimize software and hardware. We will give you the APIs and tools you need to create feature-rich applications."  

Beyond U.S. operator partners like AT&T, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint (NYSE:S), Qualcomm is also accelerating its efforts in emerging mobile markets--on Wednesday, the company announced a partnership with Chinese infotainment Web portal SINA to launch a new Brew MP applications and services storefront targeting Chinese mobile subscribers. The Brew MP store will feature both free and premium apps, and Qualcomm and SINA will jointly reach out to the local development community in an effort to attract apps and content relevant to the Chinese market.

According to Jacobs, emerging markets will account for 50 percent of all new 3G devices sold in 2011: "We're uniquely positioned to create low-cost smartphones for the masses," he said. "We think [the Brew MP] platform represents the largest developer opportunity out there in terms of scale and consumer reach."

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