Qualcomm, China Unicom in BREW joint venture

Qualcomm Inc. and China United Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (China Unicom), China's second largest wireless operator, have established a joint-venture company to develop wireless data applications based on Qualcomm's BREW (Binary Runtime for Wireless Environments) platform.

The joint venture, Unicom-BREW Wireless Technologies Ltd., was created to develop applications, including games, location-based services and business applications, for China Unicom's CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) 2000 1X network. The joint-venture company will train and provide support for Chinese BREW developers, provide application testing services, operate a development lab, and work with Chinese universities to promote BREW as a development platform, the companies said in a statement.

China Unicom is betting heavily on CDMA2000 1X to boost its CDMA-based mobile service, which has lagged behind the company's GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network in terms of the number of new subscribers. China Unicom is hoping that data services that take advantage of CDMA2000 1X's maximum download speed of 144K bps (bits per second) will help to drive adoption of CDMA among Chinese mobile users.

"The real question is when Unicom launches CMDA2000 1X," said Ted Dean, managing director at market analyst BDA China Ltd. "That's already been delayed."

Currently, China Unicom is expected to roll out its CDMA2000 1X service by the end of June but that may get pushed back into the second half of the year or be confined to the launch of services in a few major cities, Dean said.

Once the service is commercially available, China Unicom faces the challenge of enlisting the support of the development community in their efforts to roll out data-based services for the CDMA2000 1X network, he said. "To the extent they can get any help from Qualcomm is certainly good news for the company."

"This one joint venture won't solve all of their problems," Dean said.

Ownership of Unicom-BREW is evenly split between Qualcomm and China Unicom. Total investment in the joint venture was not disclosed but the two partners said they are investing tens of millions of renminbi (millions of U.S. dollars) in the new company.

In addition to BREW, China Unicom last year announced plans to work with Sun Microsystems Inc. to develop Java-based services for CDMA handsets. In a memorandum of understanding signed in November, the two companies agreed to work on developing a business model for the launch of such services.

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