Qualcomm has big BREW expectations

Qualcomm believes a wireless middleware platform it developed will be a catalyst for the large-scale uptake of third-generation mobile technology.

Qualcomm believes a wireless middleware platform it developed will be a catalyst for the large-scale uptake of third-generation mobile technology.

BREW was developed by Qualcomm, which holds the bulk of the intellectual property — and so collects the bulk of the royalties and licence fees — relating to CDMA mobile technology, to let mobile software applications go where WAP and i-mode can’t take them.

Two Qualcomm executives spoken to by Computerworld at the World 3G Congress in Hong Kong say BREW will in contrast be offered for free.

Marshall Towe, managing director for Qualcomm SouthEast Asia, says the normally licence-fee conscious company is giving software developers and mobile network operators the right to use BREW for nothing because “ultimately, it’s the software people who will determine how successful 3G is”.

The emphasis placed by many commentators on speeds misses the point, Towe says.

“The speed is like the highway, but doesn’t tell you what cars are travelling on it.”

The BREW business model is for a developer to download the BREW blueprint, write an application, get it okayed by Qualcomm and then work with a mobile carrier to get it deployed, with the developer getting the bulk of the proceeds and the rest split between the carrier and Qualcomm.

Towe says Qualcomm views the growth in demand for 3G services that will be created, rather than the revenue, as the return on its investment in developing BREW and then giving it away.

“It’s going to make people want to buy new phones and handheld devices.”

BREW applications are being used by carriers in Korea and Japan and US carrier Verizon wireless is also trialling it, as is Hong Kong’s Hutchison and a Brazilian carrier.

Qualcomm internet services president Peggy Johnson calls BREW “Windows for wireless” and says the company is in discussions about BREW with Telecom and Telstra, which have CDMA networks.

BREW can be developed on the older 2.5G CDMA networks as well as the 3G CDMA20001X, she says and has the advantage of the user being able to store on a server applications they can’t fit permanently on their phone.

It was also downloaded to GSM phones at the world GSM Congress in Cannes, France, in February, she says. “It’s air interface-agnostic.”

Qualcomm claims offering BREW applications can significantly boost carriers’ revenues.

Watson travelled to Hong Kong courtesy of Qualcomm.

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