WASHINGTON -- Qualcomm Inc. unveiled yesterday a pair of acquisitions designed to expand its reach in mobile-wireless technology and enable the company to pose a stiffer challenge to Intel Corp. and other rivals.
The San Diego company plans to buy closely held Airgo Networks Inc., a pioneer in Wi-Fi technology that is used to link laptops to the Internet at fast speeds within a few miles of a Wi-Fi "hotspot."
Qualcomm also said it would acquire most of the Bluetooth assets held by RF Micro Devices Inc. Bluetooth is a very short-range wireless technology used to link cell phones to ear pieces and headphones or to electronic devices in automobiles.
Qualcomm will incorporate its freshly acquired Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology into the chipsets it sells to manufacturers of mobile phones. The chips would also include other standards such as EV-DO and HSDPA, which are long-range wireless technologies used by mobile-phone companies to connect subscribers to the Web.
Sanjay Jha, president of Qualcomm's CDMA technologies group, said the acquisitions would allow Qualcomm to offer a single chip with virtually all the important wireless technologies for linking electronic devices to each other or to the Internet. Those standards are often referred to as Third Generation technologies.
"Our energies are focused on 3G," Jha said in an interview.
The acquisitions should also dampen speculation that Qualcomm might sell its chip-making business. Jha noted that chip sales account for about half of the company's annual revenue.
"It's a very significant part of Qualcomm," Jha said. "We want to keep it that way."
Throughout its existence, Qualcomm has made most of its money by licensing a wireless technology known as CDMA, or code division multiple access, then selling the chips used to enable CDMA-based phones.
In recent years, however, Qualcomm has broadened its push into other wireless markets. By including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in its semiconductors, the company hopes to sell more chips to makers of laptops and other electronic devices.
Qualcomm already offers a long-range wireless technology called EV-DO that is used by Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel Corp. The vendor also provides HSDPA, a technology used by Cingular Wireless and carriers around the globe to connect users to the Internet.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, both shorter-range technologies, would allow mobile users to access the Internet in more locations, sometimes at speeds faster than what the long-range technologies now offer. Devices could hop from one transmission standard to the next depending on availability, speed and cost, all at the customer's discretion.
Qualcomm's move also means the company will butt heads more often with Intel, the chipmaker that helped to popularize Wi-Fi.