Business

Why Qualcomm is making big sounds in Belfast . . .

Qualcomm's Anthony Murray with Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton. Photo: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

US-based semiconductor and telecommunications equipment giant Qualcomm, which is currently the subject the world's biggest-ever corporate takeover (a potential $100 billion-plus deal), has chosen Belfast to develop the next generation of its trademark audio technology.

Qualcomm Technologies International, a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, is using £472,000 of research and development support from Invest NI to help it advance aptX.

Originally developed in Belfast, aptX has helped to significantly improve the quality of audio in devices including wireless headphones, speakers, soundbars and smartphones and can be found in billions of consumer devices globally.

The technology has helped to revolutionise the Bluetooth listening experience and more consumers than ever before are choosing wireless streaming as their preferred way of listening to music.

Qualcomm Technologies, which has been based at the Belfast science park since 2014, is a world-renowned innovator, with many industry-leading consumer electronic brands such as Sony, Panasonic and Google using its aptX audio technology in their products.

It comes after rival Broadcom, which has pulled off a string of purchases over a decade, tabled a $103 billion deal to acquire Qualcomm, which would make it the third-largest chip-maker in the world behind Intel and Samsung Electronics.

The combined business would instantly become the default provider of a set of components needed to build each of the more than 1bn smartphones sold every year, and the price of the deal would dwarf Dell's $67bn acquisition of EMC in 2015, then the biggest in the technology industry.

Qualcomm, which is headquartered in San Diego, first set up in Belfast three years ago after it acquired Cambridge Silicon Radio for $2.5 billion, which itself had acquired APT Licensing, a CSIT spin-out company based at Catalyst Inc.

Confirming the R&D injection into aptX in Belfast, Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: “I'm delighted that Qualcomm Technologies International has chosen Northern Ireland to further develop this ground-breaking technology.

“We are helping Qualcomm continue to drive important technology innovation for wireless audio devices from right here in Northern Ireland. The audio industry is changing fast and our support is also helping the company take advantage of our highly skilled workforce and local tech ecosystem.”

Anthony Murray, senior vice president and general manager (voice and music) for Qualcomm Technologies, said: “We have a strong and passionate team of audio engineers and technologists in Ireland and the UK.

"This R&D support from Invest NI will help us to further develop exciting next generation technology for wireless audio and ensure our next generation aptX technology helps to lead the way to new levels of sound quality in wireless audio.”

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