All of this might be easier if there were an American equivalent to Huawei—a company working to pioneer the infrastructure of the next generation of wireless that also sold products directly to people. (In this case, that next generation is the much anticipated 5G standard. ) Why didn’t Qualcomm pursue that? “We did think about that, but we wanted CDMA to go worldwide,” says Jacobs.
In fact, he says they’ve remained stable even as Qualcomm has provided more technology, and that Qualcomm doesn’t just monetize its existing patents, but depends on a continuing stream of new research—as the company has done in the last decade with the new 5G standard. “Unless you keep running hard, people go right by you,” he says. “And too many of our companies have not made that investment in R&D and kept running hard.
To help prove its superiority, Qualcomm had to develop chips and build a commercial phone and base station. “To do that, obviously, it's going to take a lot of money and time,” he says. “Some of the operators [like ATT] were convinced that this was worth pursuing, so I asked them to convince the manufacturers to take a license from us, and came up with this approach: You'll pay us an upfront fee, which we'll use for R&D.
Jacobs intended to retire, but his friends convinced him to cofound another company focused on wireless. “Although we didn’t have a product in mind, didn't have a business plan, no spreadsheet, something would come up that would keep us interested,” he says—with ridiculous modesty, considering the company is now valued at $134 billion. “So I assured my wife that perhaps over the years, we’d get to 100 employees.
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As Jacobs tells it, he outlined his standard at a meeting of the major wireless communications industry group, the CTIA. “There were about, I don't know, 100 people,” he says “We did a slide show—why we thought we'd solved the problems, where it was advantageous.
The co-founder of Qualcomm unlocks its mysteries—and explains why there's no U.S. version of Huawei. https://t.co/SYdDnqxhQZ— WIRED (@WIRED) September 4, 2020