Government agencies would have a harder time communicating with the public in an emergency if imports of cell phones containing Qualcomm computer chips are banned, a federal official said on Thursday.
The U.S. International Trade Commission is considering the import ban in response to Qualcomm’s infringement of a Broadcom’s patent involving battery-saving technology.
Federal Emergency Management Agency program manager David Webb said the import ban would make it more difficult for people to receive alerts and warnings from FEMA.
“An (import ban) would significantly impact the type and quality of information which can be exchanged between responders and citizens …, severely impacting FEMA’s ability to communicate critical information at disaster sites,” Webb said in a written submission to the ITC.
The ITC is trying to decide whether the ban would cause public interest problems that outweigh Broadcom’s patent rights. The agency plans to issue its decision by May 8.
An ITC administrative judge concluded in October that Qualcomm had infringed Broadcom’s patent, but stopped short of a ban on U.S. sales of cell phones with Qualcomm chips.
Webb’s comments were echoed by other public safety advocates who said advanced features available in Qualcomm’s chips such as video capability and faster transmission speeds provided advantages to emergency responders.
“There are important public safety benefits to the technology …,” said Patrick Halley, a spokesman for an association that represents emergency call center managers.
Earlier on Thursday, the second day of a two-day hearing on possible remedies in the patent case, the ITC heard opposition to a ban from two wireless carriers.
Executives with Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless told the ITC that the proposed infringement remedy would hurt their customers and hamper their transition to cutting-edge data services.
Wireless companies are concerned about an import ban because their telephones use a technology called EV-DO in Qualcomm’s chips that enables the phones to access data, music and video services.
“If Verizon Wireless cannot offer EV-DO-capable handsets, then there is no business case for continuing to upgrade Verizon Wireless’s network to EV-DO,” the company’s chief technology officer, Richard Lynch, said in prepared testimony.
“This will harm Verizon Wireless’s business for years to come. It will also harm consumers and domestic competition in the wireless broadband market while de-positioning the U.S. leadership in wireless data,” Lynch said.
Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group.
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