During the company's annual shareholders meeting, Jacobs told a gathering of analysts that recent reports of comments he made concerning so-called 3G next-generation wireless technology got it wrong. He said he's only "concerned" that European mobile phone operators developing systems on Qualcomm's W-CDMA standard may not be able to start selling them until next year, and not in volume until late 2004 or early 2005.
The Financial Times last week quoted Jacobs as saying he "expected" a delay in the release of next-generation phones.
Investors had hoped those phones would make it to market next year. While it may seem to be a matter of mere semantics, what Jacobs was attributed as saying managed to move a market and start a tremor among investors.
After the supposed comments' publishing, investment firm Deutsche Banc Alex Brown lowered its rating on Qualcomm's stock to "buy" from "strong buy."
"Although these carriers eventually stand to reap the benefits of a 3G network, there are mixed signals floating in the air pertaining to the timing of the infrastructure upgrades," Deutsche Banc Alex Brown analyst Brian Modoff said in a research note.
Modoff downgraded Qualcomm, along with related companies Powerwave, Tekelec, DMC Stratex Networks, Stanford Microdevices and Airspan, from "strong buy" to "buy."
In reaction, Qualcomm's stock fell as much as 20 percent in one session.
Jacobs' comments also added to the growing fears that wireless operators around the world, which have invested billions of dollars in 3G licenses and equipment, will never recoup the massive investments fast enough and deliver profits.