San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc. said its Mobile Station Modem chip sets, which are tabbed for use inside many of its future products, will support the Philips Semiconductors (a division of Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV) WLAN technology module.
The company said that the chip sets will also allow such devices to connect to existing cellular networks, and that the components will offer compatibility with Wi-Fi protocols on both second- and third-generation CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks.
According to Qualcomm, the WLAN technology will allow many of its handset models to connect with high-speed wireless networks at up to 54M bps.
The Wi-Fi technology provided by Philips, based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, also promises to provide support for applications such as VOIP (voice over IP) and simultaneous data transfer.
Qualcomm said handsets featuring the wireless connectivity technology would become available before the end of 2005.
Other handset vendors, including LG Electronics Inc., Motorola Inc. and Nokia Corp., have also announced Wi-Fi-ready handsets.
"Our work with Philips helps us to address the demand for additional functionality in mobile devices," Mike Concannon, vice president of strategic products at Qualcomm, said in a statement. "This strategic relationship delivers a number of new possibilities, which we look forward to making a reality."
Qualcomm continues to expand its ability to make handsets that can access and support more sophisticated forms of mobile content, at faster speeds.
In August the firm purchased Elata, which it said should help carriers consolidate their content delivery systems for cell phones into a single framework.
In August the company also purchased Flarion Technologies Inc., which specializes in wireless broadband technology.
Industry watchers said that Wi-Fi compatibility is likely to appeal mainly to business users of Qualcomms handsets at first, as the companys existing third-generation wireless technologies already provide reliable connectivity for consumer-oriented applications such as surfing the Internet.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with San Diego-based Current Analysis Inc., said companies looking to adopt VOIP technologies or arm mobile workers with more powerful devices that can gain network access across corporate campuses would likely be the first audience to invest in the handsets.
"Today this sort of technology will appeal most to users looking to access applications on a companys back end, or offer connectivity where it isnt otherwise readily available, inside tall buildings and the like," Greengart said.
"There are also the companies looking to give employees the ability to move back and forth between VOIP and existing cellular networks, who will be ready to invest in this sort of device."
Greengart said that for consumers there is still far less motivation to look into Wi-Fi handsets, as the sets remain expensive and there are fewer applications available for which the extra level of connectivity might be needed.
Julie Ask, an analyst with Jupiter Research of Jupitermedia Corp. in New York, said that those type of applications, such as for handsets that can download video and music, are already beginning to show up, but it remains uncertain when consumers will see Wi-Fi as a must-have and be willing to fork over the higher prices charged for such handsets.
"Theres definitely a future for this sort of technology with multimedia-oriented devices, as Wi-Fi will likely offer faster downloads for some that type of content," Ask said. "Right now the interest in Wi-Fi handsets is likely the corporate user looking to offload voice to Wi-Fi in areas where the coverage isnt as strong."