ICON IT Giants Series – An evening with Andrew Gilbert, President, QUALCOMM Europe

This was the seventh in the ICON IT Giants series, Andrew Gilbert the President of QUALCOMM Europe was in the chair.

Andrew painted an upbeat assessment of the mobile industry in Europe with four-fold forecast uplift in the 3G market and the emergence of wireless internet as a real threat to current wired connections. However, it wasn’t all upbeat optimism from Andrew on the eve of England’s latest must win Euro qualifier against Estonia, Andrew, a keen Manchester United fan, was very cautious on England’s prospects.

QUALCOMM have recently committed €100m to invest in innovative European technology companies that are aligned to 3G (WCDMA). Although the ink is hardly dry they are already assessing 80-100 prospects, although Andrew recognises that a lot of frogs will need to be kissed before finding a handsome prince. He announced that Qualcomm will not be the lead investors but would co-invest along side financial investors.

Acquisitions are not unfamiliar to Andrew, as he was previously at Flarion (the developer of OFDMA technology for mobile broadband Internet protocol (IP) services) which was acquired by QUALCOMM for an eye-popping $805m last year. Prior to that, he has 25 years of experience with US and European vendors.

QUALCOMM was a start up in 1985 when seven industry veterans met at Irwin Jacobs house in San Diego and within four years had introduced Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology for wireless and data products. Innovation is still at the heart of the business, with a patent portfolio that includes approximately 5,100 United States patents and patent applications for CDMA and related technologies. However, the initial vision was to build a business that would grow to be 80 or even100 people but that proved somewhat cautious estimate as QUALCOMM has over 500 staff now in Europe alone.

Interestingly, their patents are licenced to 135 telecoms equipment manufacturers worldwide and while many companies fear the Chinese attitude to patents Andrew sees good relationships with China. In fact, problems appear much nearer home with Nokia currently in US Courts fighting over QUALCOMM licence revenues.

So, what is hot? What is the next big thing? Andrew explained that QUALCOMM work to promote new technologies and are not afraid to make major investments to launch pioneering technology like the $800m invested to launch MediaFLO (applications for wireless multimedia including mobile TV).

He also revealed that the following areas were of particular interest: Mesh networking and similar technologies that improve the efficiencies in wireless networks and increase bandwidth to the user. Power management technologies, (apparently 50% of the power in a mobile is used to power up the screen) and mobile TV (Andrew explained that in a recent survey, surprisingly, 40% of users actually used their mobile tv at home with 15% being used in the bathroom – for watching the football I guess.