Phone, chip makers demand EC Qualcomm probe

WCDMA 3G technology licencing abuse allegations made

Nokia, Panasonic, NEC, Ericsson, Texas Instruments and Broadcom have accused Qualcomm of abusing European anti-trust regulations - and they have asked the European Commission to force it clean up its act.

The six firms' beef centres on Qualcomm's ownership of key 3G mobile phone technology patents and how it makes that intellectual property available to others.

They allege Qualcomm has reneged on promises it made to international standards bodies when they agreed to adopt its WCDMA technology as the foundation for 3G that it would license its patented techniques on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

Instead, they say, it charged royalties "for its WCDMA essential patents that are excessive and disproportionate". Qualcomm charges as much for its WCDMA-related patents as it does for its CDMA2000 patents "despite the fact that Qualcomm has contributed far less technology to the WCDMA 3G standard than it has to the CDMA2000 standard", they claim.

The six maintain Qualcomm's intention has been to "to exclude competing manufacturers of chipsets for mobile phones from the market and preventing others from entering". In part it has done so by "offering lower royalty rates to handset customers who buy chipsets exclusively from Qualcomm", the rival vendors complain.

The upshot: "Qualcomm's anti-competitive behavior has harmful effects for the mobile telecommunications sector in Europe, as well as elsewhere, because carriers and consumers are facing higher prices and fewer choices," the six allege.

As yet, Qualcomm has not responded to the allegations. Neither has the EC, but it's likely to take some time to ponder the six companies' claims and weigh up any evidence they offer to back up their allegations. reg;

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