After CDMA, Qualcomm Looks for New Money Machines

Qualcomm's mirasol MEMS

Qualcomm's mirasol MEMS

Qualcomm (s qcom) today announced the opening of a factory to make its mirasol displays, and a Wi-Fi chip designed for home networking — both efforts to keep the company a top chipmaker even as carriers migrate from the CDMA technology that provides so much of its profits. CDMA royalties aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, but Qualcomm needs to find new markets for its chips that don’t ride the 3G wireless gravy train. Hence, its push into mobile television with MediaFLO, the creation of its Gobi platform, displays and now, home networking.

Qualcomm developed a chip technology known as a micro-electro-mechanical system, or MEMS, that is used to make its low-power mirasol displays, and today said it has opened its first production factory in partnership with Foxlink, a Taiwanese communications device maker, to make the color displays. The displays made at the factory will be aimed at mobile devices.

It is also moving into the home with a new wireless chip for home networking that it says can deliver data rates of 600 Mbps over an 802.11n Wi-Fi connection. Qualcomm’s N-Stream Wireless LAN WCN1320 chip uses  4×4 multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology and works in both the 5GHz or 2.4GHz spectrum bands. It joins a portfolio of Wi-Fi chips that Qualcomm makes for cell phones and other mobile devices.

With both markets, Qualcomm will face some serious risks. It needs to prove it can make its mirasol displays in large quantities, and at prices that are comparable to LCD, the dominant display technology. Mirasol will also compete with organic light-emitting displays (OLEDS) and possibly e-ink technology used in portable readers. In the home, Qualcomm will be intruding on territory controlled by Broadcom (s brcm), Atheros (s athr) and Marvell (s mrvl). Because of its close ties to carriers, it may win business providing Wi-Fi chips inside residential gateways  and modems, but it will also need to get consumer device companies onboard as well as router makers.