AT THE TIME WHEN MOST TELECOM operators in India are busy giving shape to their 3G dreams, Qualcomm Inc. has the promise of an entire market to itself. Most 3G-enabled devices run on its technology, so all operators are Qualcomm’s business partners. Added to that is the fact that the telecom technology company won four circles in the broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum auction. In an exclusive interview, Paul E. Jacobs , Qualcomm chairman and CEO, speaks about the future of long-term evolution (LTE; think 4G and beyond) systems, and the off chance that Mukesh Ambani’s Infotel Broadband Services will opt for WiMax. Edited excerpts:

When Qualcomm brought CDMA to India, the positioning alienated high-end data users. Will that happen again with 3G and LTE?
In the early days, GSM had built up relationships with high-end subscribers and CDMA operators focussed on the lower end of the market. But roaming was an issue with CDMA, especially in Europe. We could not get the device manufacturers to build multimode devices early on. This issue has been resolved and single chips with different technologies are available today. I wish we had been able to do a little bit more in terms of getting CDMA operators to roll out the data technologies quickly and really focus on mobile broadband. We have learnt from this, and we should be able to get more inclusive as we bring in newer technologies.

Can a global technology firm manage a network?
We’ve already done something similar in Australia. Our idea is to focus on demonstrating the capabilities of LTE technology, build the ecosystem, and exit. As more Indians are likely to have their first Internet experience on a cellphone rather than a PC, we want to ensure that operators deploy the best technology to deliver wireless broadband. We’re advising operators in India on how they can build 3G networks that are seamlessly compatible with next-gen BWA technology. But we won’t impose a business model on them.

Can WiMax and LTE coexist?
It’s going to be tough. As LTE systems start delivering commercially, it will accelerate the decline of WiMax and restrict it so it becomes a point-to-point access technology.

Will it matter if Infotel picks WiMax over LTE?
Globally, WiMax operators are switching to LTE. For a greenfield WiMax network, an operator will need a pan-India presence and survive without support from existing mobile technologies [unlike LTE]. That’s tough. The momentum for WiMax is slowing. We invested in BWA because we were concerned that competitive dynamics would change if both the available bands went to WiMax. But can one band and one operator on WiMax create a broader position for the technology? Probably not.

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