Editor's Corner: Exclusive Interview with Qualcomm CEO

I had a chance to sit down with Qualcomm's CEO, Paul Jacobs yesterday just before he gave a presentation on the future of wireless broadband. We had time for only two questions before Jacobs took the podium:

Brian Dolan: Three years ago your predecessor broke ranks with others in the industry and came out in support of cellular over WiFi. How do you see the market for wVoIP ramping up today?

Paul Jacobs: "Basically what's happening is we're headed towards flat rate pricing plans and buckets of minutes, once that happens subscribers become a cost to the operator and not revenue anymore. So the operators are interested in fixed-mobile convergence. If you can off-load traffic while maintaining call-continuity, the same number and all that then they'll do it not because it's a coverage issue but because it's a cost issue. Qualcomm, of course, will be there to build all the backend technology to support this. We built this [1xEV-DO] technology, which is packet-based over the airband. When you're moving to VoIP you can shift the packets around a bit, VoIP can allow telco-quality voice… once you get that down you start to think about moving to an all-IP network and the multimedia aspects. The networks that Verizon and Sprint are currently rolling out can support wVoIP."

BD: How does Sprint's announcement that it will make use of WiMAX technology in its next network rollout affect Qualcomm?

PJ: "Well, we have intellectual property in WiMAX as well as Rev. A and 1x--so we're likely to build chipsets for WiMAX, too. Obviously we'd like to push our own technologies, though. WiMAX is still in our opinion in early deployment. We'll be showing off some new broadband technologies soon--up until now the WiMAX guys have had an open field to make claims."


Jacobs' presentation was peppered with quotable phrases that spanned a wide variety of topics: "When people ask me who our biggest competitors are, I say the government regulators… It takes 100 times more bandwidth to carry video than voice… When subscribers want to view video on their handsets, it should load up immediately--one of our carrier partners calls that 'Click-Boom!'" Jacobs backed the last statement up with a side-by-side comparison of a music video running over both HSDPA and WCDMA. The HSDPA certainly made good on the Click-Boom! slogan, while the WCDMA began to play just as the first one ended.

Jacobs spent much of his time on mobile media, especially mobile TV. He mentioned that Qualcomm was still waiting for its MediaFLO petition to get clearance from the FCC--it's been waiting for more than a year. He also predicted that side-loading content via WiFi and syncing handsets up to flat-screen panels in the digital home via WiFi will become a norm in the future. The growing consumer electronics market will also see more WiFi capabilities that will enable wVoIP and possibly even cellular. Jacobs said figuring out how to allow subscribers to use multiple devices/handsets for their one account is a problem the industry is working on, since it furthers the longterm trend that began with the advent of mobile: calling a person, not a place.

Lastly, Jacobs made a few interesting remarks regarding the SlingBox, which has a mobile app that runs over EV-DO on Windows Mobile devices. "Two people in the same sector using the SlingBox will take down that sector--while we're not seeing that with wireline yet, we will. Because of the dotcom era, we overbuilt the wireline network, but the dark fiber is running out." Jacobs tied this argument to the Net Neutrality debate and insisted that we can no longer be disinterested in the type of content users download or stream because there will come a breaking point. -Brian