Qualcomm acquires Airgo

In an important move, Qualcomm is acquiring WLAN and Bluetooth technologies, allowing it to do three things: Accelerate the pace of integrating wireless networking capabilities in mobile phones; become a major player in 802.11n; and fatten its patent portfolio and the stream of licensing revenues that come with it. The company being acquired is Airgo Networks, which develops WLAN technologies and is a MIMO pioneer. The Bluetooth technology assets will be bought, for $39 million, from RF Micro Devices. The technologies these two companies develop will soon be more tightly integrated with chip sets Qualcomm sells to mobile phone makers, and will position Qualcomm better to compete with Broadcom and Intel.

The three important things about the Qualcomm move:

  • The main reason to buy Airgo is to build WiFi capabilities into Qualcomm's phone chipsets. Airgo will likely replace Qualcomm's previous partner, Atheros, and it says it will integrate Draft 2.0 WiFi, backward compatible with 802.11a, b, and g, as well as Draft 1.0, into its Mobile Station Modem and Snapdragon chipsets.
  • Qualcomm will continue to offer stand alone WiFi chips, and will go for full integration when 802.11n is finalized. Qualcomm may even be moving into consumer gear.
  • The acquisition will also enrich Qualcomm's stable of patents and would strengthen its hand in legal disputes--not only in on-going ones such as the dispute Qualcomm has with Broadcom over Bluetooth technologies--but in future legal skirmishes pertaining to MIMO.

Both deals will close by the end of December.

For more on Qualcomm's latest moves:
- see this press release
- James Niccolai's Computerworld report
- and Eric Griffith's Wi-Fi Planet discussion
- Airgo to forgo Draft 1.0 products focusing instead on a Draft 2.0 strategy