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Electronic Design

Qualcomm Chip Ban to Have Minor Impact on Global Mobile-Phone Market

May, however, impact semiconductor suppliers

The International Trade Commission’s (ITC) decision to ban U.S. imports of some mobile phones that include certain Qualcomm Inc. 3G chips will have only a limited impact on the global wireless communications industry in the short term, according to analysts from iSuppli Corp. Last week, the ITC charged that certain Qualcomm chips used in cutting-edge EV-DO and WCDMA mobile phones infringe on a patent held by Broadcom Corp. The move follows an ITC decision that Qualcomm's mobile-phone baseband chips violate a Broadcom patent that relates generally to power management in wireless handsets. If upheld, the ban will impact an estimated 4.2 million shipments of EV-DO and WCDMA mobile phones in 2007, according to Tina Teng, wireless communications analyst for iSuppli. This will represent only 4.4 percent of North American mobile-phone shipments in the second half of the year, and just 3.2 percent of worldwide 3G mobile-phone shipments during that period. Teng said that only 11 mobile-phone models would be impacted by the ban in 2007, representing 0.9 percent of new phone model introductions for the year, according to iSuppli’s Design Forecast Tool. The ban will impact certain mobile-phone OEMs to a greater extent than the industry as a whole, due to their sales of phones with the barred Qualcomm chips into the U.S. market. The OEMs that will be most impacted—in order of degree—are number-three mobile-phone maker Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., fifth-ranked LG Electronics and second-place Motorola Inc. However, iSuppli does not expect that the ban will reduce volume shipments of mobile phones in the overall mobile-phone industry this year. Carriers will continue to promote their data-centric 3G services to subscribers, but will have to offer existing 3G handset models to their subscribers. "The effect of the ban will not be reduced shipments, but rather lower average selling prices (ASPs) as wireless carriers are forced to push aging models that have lower price points, rather than more expensive latest-model EV-DO and WCDMA mobile phones," said Jagdish Rebello, director and principal analyst of consumer electronics/India research/wireless communications for iSuppli. Qualcomm has pledged to fight the ban, and said it will ask the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to stay enforcement of the ITC's order. The company also said it will appeal to President Bush to veto the ITC's decision. Beyond Qualcomm itself, the ban will most impact suppliers of other semiconductors used in such advanced phones, including makers of radio frequency and power-amplifier chips. These suppliers include TriQuint Semiconductor Inc., RF Micro Devices, Inc. and Anadigics Inc. However, the effect on these companies could be limited to ASP reductions for their chip offerings. One product that could be impacted by the ban is Apple Inc.’s iPhone, which soon will be offered to consumers in the United States. Some of the advanced mobile phones impacted by the ITC ban were expected to compete directly with iPhone. This could create challenges for carriers planning to offer these phones, while boosting the outlook for AT&T, which will sell the iPhone in the United States.

TAGS: Mobile
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