Site: QUALCOMM Incorporated
6455 Lusk Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92121-2779

Date Visited: June 5, 1997

WTEC: S. Townes (report author), K. Bhasin, N. Helm, C. Mahle



QUALCOMM Incorporated is a leading supplier of technology for wireless systems. Most notably, QUALCOMM is a leading purveyor of code division multiple access (CDMA) technology and systems for cellular, personal communications services (PCS) and wireless local loop. QUALCOMM also produces and markets OmniTRACS(r), a satellite-based system for tracking and information services for trucking fleets. In support of its own businesses but also as a standalone product, QUALCOMM provides application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for such functions as frequency synthesis and forward error correction coding. QUALCOMM's Internet related product is the Eudora email system with PureVoice voice compression/decompression technology for voice messaging. QUALCOMM employs approximately 8,000 people worldwide.

This site visit, however, primarily focused on QUALCOMM's participation in the development of the Globalstar satellite system. The Globalstar system is a satellite-based digital communications system using a constellation of 48 low earth orbiting satellites to provide global services similar to those provided by a terrestrial mobile communications system, e.g., voice, fax, messaging, etc. QUALCOMM is one of the founding partners in Globalstar, L.P., and has been awarded contracts to develop and manufacture the Ground operations control centers (GOCCs), gateways and subscriber terminals.


As mentioned above, QUALCOMM is primarily responsible for the Globalstar ground segment. This is in no small part due to the selection of CDMA for the Globalstar system. QUALCOMM is a leader in CDMA technology. QUALCOMM was awarded a contract with an initial value of $275 million for the ground segment development.

It was emphasized that there was substantial interaction between the satellite and ground segment designers. This was primarily due to the fact that "bent-pipe repeating" is somewhat more complex with CDMA due to power control issues.

The Globalstar ground segment consists of a Satellite Operations Control Center (SOCC), Ground Operations Control Centers (GOCC), gateways, and subscriber terminals. The SOCC provides all of the telemetry, tracking, and command functions for maintaining the constellation. There is a redundant SOCC. The GOCC plans and controls gateway utilization of satellite resources in conjunction with the SOCC. Gateways provide connections between subscriber terminals and the public switched telephone network or the public land mobile network. A wide area network ties the SOCC, GOCC and gateways together.

A gateway installation will typically contain four terminals for contacting satellites in view. The gateway also performs the computations for the position location information provided to the subscriber terminals. Gateways communicate with the satellites at C-band. In one example of the global nature of the Globalstar consortium, the gateway rf systems are manufactured by Alcatel and Alenia-with one of each located at the San Diego facility. In addition to the QUALCOMM IS-41 mobile switching center (MSC) equipment, Alcatel is providing GSM MSC equipment. The initial gateway locations are Clifton, Texas, Aussaguel in France, Yeo-Ju in South Korea, and Beijing in China. Service providers around the world will operate the gateways purchased from Globalstar.

The user terminals come in fixed, mobile and personal versions and communicate with the satellites in the L-band. The fixed terminal provides digital telephone service, either private or the equivalent of the public telephone, in remote locations. The mobile/personal phones are functionally similar, though the mobile phone can have a remote antenna and higher output power since it is not required to run off of a battery. The personal terminals will come in three versions. The common attribute is the Globalstar/QUALCOMM CDMA phone. Ericsson, Orbitel, and Telital will add GSM capabilities to the Globalstar phone for a second version. The third version will be Globalstar/IS-95/AMPS compatible. The second generation phones will use a higher level of integration of the terrestrial and satellite equipment. Speech processing is used to provide digital speech at an average rate of 8 kbps over a 9.6 kbps channel-the rest for overhead. Diversity, i.e., using the strongest satellite visible, is also used to increase system performance when shadowing or fading situations exist.

QUALCOMM is counting on substantial heritage from the terrestrial cellular phone software development across the network, i.e., GOCC, gateway and user terminal. It was also indicated, however, that efficient software development is key to reducing costs.

One area where QUALCOMM managers feel that the government could help is to provide more sensible out-of-band emission standards, particularly with respect to interference to L-band navigation systems. This could be a problem with type acceptance of the higher powered mobile phones.


QUALCOMM is a strong player in the development of the Globalstar system due to its technological expertise in CDMA systems and terrestrial cellular equipment.

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian