Way back in 1993 the Korean government made a difficulty and bold decision to adopt CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology as its mobile communications standard. Although holding much promise for the future, at that time it was an untested technology to which a small U.S. company, Qualcomm, held most of the patents. The Korean government decision made it the first nation in the world to commercialize CDMA.
For many years, Korean companies paid handsome royalties to Qualcomm as they manufactured CDMA devices not only for the Korean market, but for export to the U.S. and other countries. Last year, the Korea Fair Trade Commission fined Qualcomm a record $236 million for discriminatory acts that included charging higher royalties to some customers. Now Qualcomm, as part of the agreement that followed that fine, will start disclosing information that will allow South Korean companies to develop software for its chips. As reported in the Joongang Ilbo, Qualcomm intends to open an application digital signal processor (ADSP) interface so that third parties can develop mobile multimedia software that can be used on its modem chip, for which it has exclusive rights. The interface helps to compress and convert computer files into moving images, making it possible to receive video and other types of content on a cell phone.
This is an interesting development that may give a boost to Korea's efforts to move from its manufacturing emphasis into software and services.