Qualcomm plays up 3G with Gobi cards

Gobi, a dual-mode modem that supports EV-DO Revision A and HSPA, has already been adopted by the top five PC makers

Five major PC makers will include Qualcomm's Gobi 3G mobile data technology in laptops, and Qualcomm expects six to nine carriers to support the system by year's end.

Gobi is a dual-mode modem that supports EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) Revision A and HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access), the two main 3G networks in use around the world. It also includes GPS hardware. It is designed to help enterprise employees and other users stay connected wherever they are.

The five biggest PC OEMs will offer laptops with Gobi, Qualcomm officials said at a news conference on Tuesday at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas. Qualcomm had already identified Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, and Panasonic as planning to use it and declined to name the others. Dell announced on Tuesday that it will offer Gobi laptops. T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless have certified the technology, and Vodafone is expected to approve it soon, according to Qualcomm. The first products should hit the market in the second quarter, the company said.

The pioneer of CDMA (Code-Divison Multiple Access) has strong faith in 3G for the future, even as 4G technologies like WiMax and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) grab much of the network spotlight at CTIA. Qualcomm also said its EV-DO technology is gaining on the more widely used GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) technologies, especially in developing countries such as India. There are about 385 million CDMA users worldwide, said Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm's CEO.

Qualcomm is expanding the capacity of CDMA with a chipset for base stations announced Tuesday, the Cell Site Modem 8950. With it, carriers will be able to deliver more than twice the current capacity of 35 simultaneous calls in a narrow 1.25GHz band of spectrum, allowing carriers to continue leveraging 3G networks far into the future, Qualcomm said. The company expects commercial products to come out in 2010. It is designed for CDMA2000 1x initially and EV-DO with a future software upgrade.

The company has already announced it will supply LTE chipsets, and Jacobs boosted that technology over WiMax.

"We see the momentum right now continues to be with the LTE path," he said.

Also Tuesday, Qualcomm's Firethorn division joined Citigroups Citi Cards unit for credit-card account management tools on mobile phones. The companies expect to deliver the service by the third quarter. Holders of Citi Cards will be able to view their card balances, recent transactions, rewards information, and other data on the phone. The announcement is part of a broader push by Qualcomm into "mobile wallet" capabilities on phones, according to Len Lauer, an executive vice president and group president at Qualcomm. The company acquired Firethorn last November.

"We believe we can be a very strong player" in mobile wallet technology, which spans banking, coupons, loyalty cards, and in-store payment via near-field communications, Lauer said.

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