Qualcomm are major technology player in the wireless industry, having been responsible for the creation and development of CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology commonly used in 3G mobile networks worldwide. Today is it mainly a technology research and development organisation, and is the world's largest fabless chip supplier (i.e. it designs and markets the chips but subcontracts their manufacture). A signficant part of its revenues come from patents used in both CDMA and W-CDMA mobile networks.
In the 1990's Qualcomm manufactured its own cellular base stations and mobile phones. These businesses were sold to Ericsson and Kyocera respectively at the turn of the century.
Qualcomm has developed a range of chipsets used in mobile networks and handsets including very fast lookup GPS location. Their Gobi chipset uniquely supports both CDMA, GSM and UMTS technologies in a single device.
In May 2008, Qualcomm made a strategic investment in ip.access, the Cambridge UK based picocell and femtocell vendor. The terms of the investment were not disclosed.
The company announced their intention to enter the femtocell market with a femtocell chipset to compete with picoChip and Percello, stating in February 2009 that this program had been added to their roadmap. The schedule indicated that early sampling of devices would start in Q2 2010, suggesting that commercial products may be feasible towards the end of 2010 or shortly thereafter.
The chipsets, named Femtocell Station Modem (FSM), supporting both UMTS/HSPA and CDMA/EV-DO technologies, includes baseband functions, network listen and integrated RF capabilities for all major wireless bands. The chipsets also will feature innovative techniques addressing the issue of interference between femtocells and the macro network.
A later version with expanded capacity of up to 32 concurrent calls was launched in September 2011, targetting the enterprise and public access markets. Their solution integrates Wi-Fi and continues to offer variants for CDMA and UMTS/HSPA.
Airwalk (now Ubee-Airwalk) announced adoption of Qualcomm's UltraSON technology in June 2011. It is not believed that this requires the use of the Qualcomm FSM chipset.
ZTE announced selection of Qualcomm's FSM chipset for their design of CDMA femtocells in March 2010.
Qualcomm acquired DesignArt Networks, an Israeli startup for around $100 million in August 2012, to help bolster their capability in the small cell market. Design Arts had claimed that over 90% of all small cell non-line-of-sight backhaul was based on their chipset.