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Jeff Kagan: Qualcomm and Apple Make Peace, What’s Next?

Qualcomm is the US leader in wireless 5G chip set technology. Now they have settled with their large customer Apple, and Intel is exiting the business, what does the future hold for Qualcomm?
Equities columnist Jeff Kagan is a telecom, technology and wireless analyst and consultant. He covers 5G, AI, IoT, the metaverse, autonomous driving, healthcare, telehealth, pay TV and more. Follow him at and on Twitter @jeffkagan and LinkedIn.
Equities columnist Jeff Kagan is a telecom, technology and wireless analyst and consultant. He covers 5G, AI, IoT, the metaverse, autonomous driving, healthcare, telehealth, pay TV and more. Follow him at and on Twitter @jeffkagan and LinkedIn.

Qualcomm QCOM has been around for several decades. It has generally been a strong, growth-oriented leader in the wireless business. However, over the last few years they have faced several significant challenges from a variety of different places. Last week, two of those challenges were resolved. What does this mean for Qualcomm going forward?

First, Qualcomm and Apple AAPL settled a long-standing dispute. They were in federal court last week when suddenly, they came to terms. This looked like a personal attack from Apple. Like Apple was simply trying to put the screws to Qualcomm and knew they that didn’t have much to stand on. At least they can both get back to work.

Second, Intel INTC announced they will stop making modem chips for 5G smartphones. They are a competitor to Qualcomm with these chip sets. Perhaps that was another reason Apple decided to back off. Suddenly, they need Qualcomm chip sets for their iPhones. It doesn’t make sense for Apple to try and bury a key supplier.

So, as good as this week has been for Qualcomm, and it has been a great week, there are still other issues they hope can be resolved as quickly. Unfortunately, they may take a while.

Qualcomm competes with Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and others globally

World-wide, Qualcomm and Huawei are top competitors in the race to build out 5G networks. In fact, there are several hundred competitors worldwide.

The top few competitors account for roughly 80 – 90 percent of the market. Competitors are companies like Huawei, Ericsson ERIC, Nokia NOK and many others. Intel was one of their competitors, but as mentioned above, they are pulling out of the chip set business.

Huawei faces its own significant issues here in the US. Regulators are warning that China will be able to monitor the communications of countries using their gear.

It’s impossible for us to know what is actually going on here. Huawei is being banned by a few other countries, but the majority are still using their network gear, smartphones and tablets. The word is, China is subsidizing Huawei so they can give hefty discounts to nations globally in order to win their business.

Is Qualcomm a monopoly, and if so, does it matter?

Some say Qualcomm is abusing their monopoly power. While this raised my eyebrows, I quickly realized they are not a monopoly. Not even close. So, this makes no sense. I wonder why there is this kind of battle going on.

Unfortunately, I think politics is increasingly playing a role and that is something that should never happen. Technology and competition are tough enough. Add politics and companies can find themselves wrestling with a ghost.

Qualcomm is the leader in wireless network technology. They are the leader in 5G technology. Huawei has a few more patents, but that is not how you judge a company’s leadership. The quality and importance of the patents are key.

Politics playing a larger role against Qualcomm growth

Qualcomm is not a monopoly. They compete with a group of powerful companies like Intel, Ericsson, Nokia and dozens more worldwide.

Sure, they are a leader. They have been for quite a few years. That’s because they create an excellent product.

They competed with many other companies, but their chip set and network technology are far better than the vast majority of their competitors. That’s why their competitors opted out the way Intel announced they are doing.

Even if Qualcomm was a monopoly, that would not be an issue

Even if they were a monopoly, that still would not be an issue. There are many companies who have a monopoly in their sectors. Think of companies like Facebook FB, Amazon AMZN and Microsoft MSFT as a few examples.

When a company does not abuse their monopoly power, they are not a threat and they are allowed to continue.

So, this one smells like politics. That’s a shame. A company, its investors and the entire industry should not be threatened with harm simply because of politics. Especially when they have not done anything wrong.

If Qualcomm wins the 5G wars, the USA wins as well

Any way you slice it, Qualcomm has been under the gun in the last few years. As a matter of fact, they have been facing several, key roadblocks that need to be resolved. Two were resolved last week.

If Qualcomm leads the race to 5G, then the USA leads the race to 5G. However, if they are kept all tangled up, it is not fair to them and their investors. And to make matters worse, with top competitors like Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and countless others, Qualcomm is an American company.

So, keeping them all tied up with these issues hurts us as Americans. Do we want to win the race to 5G as a country or do we want to screw it all up with politics?

With that said, if they are not guilty, we need to clear the path for our number one player… not fill the runway with garbage that will keep them grounded. Something to think about.

Jeff Kagan is an columnist. Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Telecom Analyst, Industry Analyst, speaker and consultant. He follows wireless, wire line, telecom, Internet, cable TV, IPTV, Cloud, Mobile Pay, FinTech and communications technology. Email him at [email protected]. His web site is Follow him on Twitter @jeffkagan.

Stories like Charlie Munger’s inspire me. It shows why you must live life as an optimist.