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Qualcomm Rides China's Smartphone Boom

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( Trefis) -- China, the world's largest mobile market by subscriber base, saw a 1.23 % increase in mobile subscribers February to close in on the billion subscriber mark.

The three national telcom carriers -- China Mobile (CHL), China Unicom (CHU) and China Telecom -- continue to see healthy 3-G adoption growth rates.

China has about 144 million 3G subscribers out of a total of 999.7 million mobile phone users. While this 14.4% penetration is still low, it is more than double the penetration levels from a year ago. With 3G services seeing strong demand and penetration levels still low, we see the dominant player in the mobile semiconductor industry, Qualcomm (QCOM - Get Report), benefiting hugely from an increased penetration of 3G smartphones.

Our price estimate for Qualcomm is $67.50 , about 2% above of market price.

See our full analysis for Qualcomm's stock here.

Increasing 3G penetration will benefit Qualcomm in two ways. First it will increased sales of chipsets supporting 3G technology. Qualcomm is the industry leader in developing mobile chipsets. Its mobile device chipsets division contributes around 60% of its total revenues and more than 40% to the company's overall value, by our estimates. Handset vendors ranging from Samsung, Apple and Nokia to Huawei and ZTE use its chipsets.

The company scored a huge win last year when it secured the iPhone 4S' baseband slot, replacing Infineon in all of Apple's iDevices. The new iPad launched recently also sports Qualcomm's LTE chipset. This makes it very likely that the iPhone 5 also have Qualcomm's chips, too. Nokia uses Qualcomm chipsets in its Lumia line of smartphones. Huawei and ZTE recently awarded multi-million dollar deals to Qualcomm for manufacturing chipsets to use in their phones.

The iPhone 4S was launched in China on two of its three major carriers recently. With Qualcomm's multi-mode baseband chips now available, we foresee an iPhone on the remaining Chinese carrier, China Mobile, by the end of the year. Nokia is launching the Lumia on all the three carriers on March 28th. Huawei and ZTE are leading Chinese mobile manufacturers that are growing their presence in the Chinese market through their low-cost handsets.
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