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'We are ready to invest in mobile TV'

In a conversation with Sandeep Bamzai, Dr Paul Jacobs CEO of Qualcomm, outlines the new vision for his company.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 12:08 IST
Sandeep Bamzai
Sandeep Bamzai

Dr Paul Jacobs, CEO of chip set manufacturer Qualcomm, is betting big on India. After all, this is the last frontier in the telecom world. As the chip set supplier to Reliance Communication and Tatas for their CDMA operations, Jacobs is now ready to bankroll Qualcomm's next growth imperative in India. In a conversation with Sandeep Bamzai, the driver of the $6 billion company, with a market cap in excess of $80 billion and an R&D spend of close to a billion dollars, outlines the new vision for his company. Excerpts:

India is clearly the last bastion in the telecoms space, the growth numbers are staggering. And with CDMA operators now driving the net accretions, where do you think things are headed?

India is at the doorstep of bringing telecom and data access to a whole multitude of people unused to the experience so far. When we started Qualcomm, it was started with the idea of changing the world, and I guess India and other developing markets like Brazil provide us with that opportunity now. So, do you believe that the regulatory environment is impeding the progress somewhat in India, given the problems surrounding spectrum...

Every market has its own particularities. Everyone, for instance, is wondering on the regulatory issues around how the G licences will be used in China. Duelling with the regulators is part and parcel of the game. Licensing of spectrum is vital for the growth of the industry worldwide. Even in a developed telecoms market like Korea, we deal with it regularly. So, I guess one has to be flexible and that word underpins Qualcomm's strategy. When we see an opportunity, we go after it and when we see an obstacle, we try and mitigate it.

There is now talk in India that despite all the uncertainty over spectrum, there might actually be an auction, will you participate in it?

It is unlikely that we will participate directly. However, if one of the operators is keen for us to assist him, then we would do it. Instead, if we were to partner for a Media Flo (mobile TV) consortium, then we would be willing to bet big bucks in India on our own.

We have the cash and we like to chase opportunities with it. We are keen to create a consortium in India for a Media Flo venture. In the US, we have already sunk in $800 million in our mobile TV venture.

Are you happy with the way your partners have performed in the Indian context?

We are extremely happy with both the operators -- Tatas and Reliance. They press us very hard for enabling technologies for the low-end of the market. They have made us focus on that part of the market which is growing handsomely. We see a big uptick thanks to their marketing plans. Brazil has a similar market, vast and price-conscious, and it is a challenge to work in tandem with such operators. There has been so much controversy over CDMA in India.

Where do you think this business is headed around the world?

There are 302 million subscribers for this technology and 3G alone has 266 million despite all the travails it faced in Europe primarily. Verizon alone has 43-odd million, Sprint another 23 million while Unicom, KDDI, Vivo in Brazil and reliance and Tatas are all getting bigger by the day.

Tell us more about what you want to do with Media Flo (mobile TV) in India?

We are clearly going to invest into creating a company for this purpose. It might be a holding company leading a consortium of different players -- operators, broadcasters, content providers and the like. We have to find the right partners who are well-connected and have the distribution channels. While our operating partners will put in most of it, we will chip in substantially.

A serious dialogue is underway with partners to build this consortium in India. After Media Flo what?

We want to test new frontiers in mobile technology. Mobile TV is a fruition of that in many ways. We haven't done much with GPS, voiceover IP, payment systems and maybe even healthcare on the cellphone. We are keen to create a security blanket with your doctor through the cellphone.

First Published: Apr 10, 2006 12:08 IST