Qualcomm goes global with new GSM chip

The company eyes global rivals with its new chip that can speak a number of wireless languages, including the most widespread, GSM.

Qualcomm on Tuesday unveiled a new set of processors that will allow wireless devices to tap a wide range of networks, including those that use technologies that rival Qualcomm's own system.

Available by the middle of 2003, the MSM6500 processor represents Qualcomm's latest push to sell mobile phones that are based on the world's most widespread wireless standard, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).

Qualcomm owns many of the patents for cell phones and wireless phone networks using CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), a standard that runs 20 percent of the world's networks. GSM, on the other hand, powers 70 percent of networks.

The two standards, however, aren't compatible. Qualcomm's new chips aim to bridge that technological gap, as well as give Qualcomm a competitive advantage in the market against Nokia, Siemens and other GSM handset makers.

"For years, we've been promoting CDMA worldwide," said Luis Pineda, Qualcomm vice president of product management. "We're looking at ways to support the requirement of our carriers through use of CDMA or chips that work with GSM." he said.

A representative for Nokia, which owns many of the essential patents for GSM technology, was not immediately available for comment.

Qualcomm said upcoming cell phones that use the new processors will be able to use networks based on GSM and CDMA, as well as a faster version of CDMA called CDMA2000 1xEV-DO.

The same chips will also use USB On-The-Go, technology that Qualcomm licensed from Irvine, Calif.-based developer TransDimension.

In September, Qualcomm began shipments of its MSM6300 chipset that combines GSM with a faster version of CDMA. The company's MSM6200 chipset, introduced earlier this year, combines GSM technology with yet another GSM-compatible standard, called wideband-CDMA.