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Qualcomm’s alleged anti-competitive behavior is facing EU scrutiny once again

Qualcomm’s alleged anti-competitive behavior is facing EU scrutiny once again


This time, its radio frequency front-end chips are to blame

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The European Commission is once again investigating Qualcomm over what it believes could be anti-competitive practices, Qualcomm revealed in its latest earnings report. This time, the commission is concerned with how Qualcomm is selling its radio frequency front-end (RFFE) chips, which form part of the link between a phone’s antenna and modem. According to Reuters, it’s an area into which Qualcomm is in the process of expanding, and the chips are growing more complex, thanks to the demands of 5G. The investigation was subsequently confirmed by the European Commission in a statement given to TechCrunch.

This is just the latest in a long line of EU antitrust investigations into Qualcomm. Last year, the company was fined €242 million for selling 3G chips at predatory prices between 2009 and 2011 in an attempt to drive competing supplier Icera out of the market. Prior to that, in 2018, the EU slapped Qualcomm with a massive €997 million fine for paying Apple billions of dollars between 2011 and 2016 to exclusively use its 4G chips. Despite these fines, Qualcomm has remained a dominant supplier of cellular modems.

The EU fined Qualcomm in 2019 and 2018

Meanwhile, in the US, Qualcomm is in the process of appealing a court decision that called its licensing terms anti-competitive after charges were leveled by the Federal Trade Commission. The ruling said that Qualcomm must stop bundling patent licensing deals with its hardware and agree to grant patents on fair terms to other modem chip suppliers. However, Qualcomm quickly launched an appeal, and a court subsequently ruled that it would not have to comply with the initial decision until the appeals process was concluded. Qualcomm’s latest filing says that the appeal’s oral arguments are currently scheduled for February 13th.

Qualcomm says it was asked to provide information to the commission on December 3rd. If found guilty, the company could be fined up to 10 percent of its annual revenue and could be forced to change its business practices. According to Reuters, Qualcomm has already won contracts to sell radio frequency chips to Samsung, Google, and LG.