Qualcomm Buys Chipmaker Atheros For $3.1 Billion

Qualcomm has bought the WiFi and Bluetooth chipmaker Atheros for $45 per share, or about $3.1 billion. This would the wireless chipmaker’s biggest acquisition to date, and comes just weeks after the company sold spectrum and other assets from their failed Flo TV business to AT&T (NYSE: T) for $1.9 billion.

The acquisition adds a much-needed component to Qualcomm’s portfolio as it looks to get further involved in the new wave of smartphones and tablets hitting the market.

Atheros focusses on advanced WiFi and Bluetooth technology, which are core to the connectivity features of smartphones and tablets. Qualcomm has made its name primarily in chipsets for feature phones, and is strongest in voice services.

Atheros established itself in the WiFi space over ten years ago, and holds several key patents in advanced WLAN technologies, writes Rethink Wireless. It has been a significant contributor to developing high-speed standards like 11n and integration with powerline networking, as well as Bluetooth technology.

One example of the kind of work Atheros does: Yesterday, it announced two 802.11n products that could be used in WiFi routers and residential gateways. The new Align AR933x and XSPAN AR934x system-on-chip solutions “enable smaller and more energy-efficient networking products, but also provide manufacturers with a flexible and cost-effective platform for adding advanced wireless connectivity to consumer electronic devices,” writes the company in the release.

Both companies are members of the semiconductor group of the Android Open Handset Alliance. They have also collaborated on projects in the past: in 2006 they struck an agreement to develop mobile chips together.

Atheros’ current president and CEO, Dr. Craig H. Barratt, is expected to join Qualcomm as president of Qualcomm Networking & Connectivity.

Could there be more acquisitions on the horizon for Qualcomm? (NSDQ: QCOM) The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) reports that it has cash reserves of some $10 billion, on top of the $1.9 billion made from the Flo TV sale to AT&T.

Full release here.