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23 May 2019

Qualcomm violated antitrust laws, says US district judge

First published23/05/2019
Qualcomm has been accused of supressing competition from smartphone chip rivals by threatening to cut off supplies and extract licensing fees.

US District Judge Lucy Koh has ordered the company to renegotiate licensing agreements at reasonable prices.

Qualcomm, a key player in the ITS industry - particularly in the nascent area of 5G technology - refutes the ruling. “We strongly disagree with the judge’s conclusions, her interpretation of the facts and her application of the law,” said Don Rosenberg, the telecoms firm’s general counsel.

It plans to ask Koh to delay her decision while also seeking to appeal to the federal appeals court in California.

The ruling serves as a win for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which filed a complaint in a federal district court in 2017, saying that Qualcomm used anticompetitive tactics to maintain its monopoly in the supply of a semiconductor device used in mobile phones.

The FTC alleged that Qualcomm used its position as a supplier of certain baseband processors to impose anticompetitive supply and licensing terms on mobile phone manufacturers and to weaken its rivals.

FTC said that Qualcomm maintained a ‘no licence, no chip’ policy where it will supply its baseband processors on the condition that mobile phone manufacturers agree to its preferred licence terms. Additionally, the company refused to licence standard-essential patents to competing suppliers of baseband processors and used exclusivity to prevent Apple from working with and improving the effectiveness of Qualcomm competitors.

In 2017, Qualcomm announced a chipset based on the Release 14 cellular Vehicle to Everything specifications.

Maged Zaki, director, technology and product marketing, told ITS International: “This is 4G LTE-based – not, as some assume, 5G but it does provide a strong evolutionary route to 5G. And we’re not attempting to corner the market – since our announcement at least four other companies have produced or signalled their intention to produce chipsets.”

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