Qualcomm buys WLAN and Bluetooth technologies

To integrate wireless technologies with cell phones

Qualcomm Inc. is making two acquisitions of Bluetooth and wireless LAN chip technologies, allowing it to further the integration of wireless networking capabilities in mobile phones.

The company will buy Airgo Networks Inc., which develops WLAN technologies used in access points and laptop computers, and it will buy most of the Bluetooth technology assets of RF Micro Devices Inc. The acquisitions, announced Sunday, will allow Qualcomm to integrate the wireless technologies more tightly with chip sets that it sells to mobile phone makers. This should make it easier for phone makers to develop compact products with built-in Bluetooth and WLAN capabilities.

Bluetooth allows phones to send data over short distances, connecting to a wireless headset or laptop computer, for example. Adding a WLAN connection to a phone allows it to connect to a LAN to use VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and other services. The acquisitions will put Qualcomm in closer competition with other makers of wireless networking chips, including Intel Corp. and Broadcom Corp. It could also bring Qualcomm new technology patents that would strengthen its hand in legal disputes.

The company is in the midst of several patent disputes, including one with Broadcom that concerns Bluetooth technologies. Airgo, in Palo Alto, Calif., develops WLAN technologies based on IEEE 802.11a, b and g, as well as the proposed 802.11n standard.

Qualcomm plans to integrate the technologies into its Mobile Station Modem and Snapdragon chip sets. It will also keep supporting Airgo's current WLAN business, it said. In the case of RF Micro, Qualcomm is buying its Bluetooth division in San Diego, which develops technologies for handsets and headsets. RF Micro is retaining other Bluetooth products, including its SiW3000 and SiW3500 system-on-chip families. It said the sale will allow it to focus on its higher-growth areas, including cellular transceivers and GPS components.

RF Micro, which has headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., said Qualcomm is paying $39 million for its technologies. Qualcomm didn't disclose the value of the Airgo deal, but it said the acquisitions combined would reduce its earnings for the current fiscal year by about 4 cents per share. It expects to close both deals by the end of December. 

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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