Will the King of 4G LTE Survive a Revolt?

Qualcomm (NAS: QCOM) is a master of mobile computing. Not only do its Snapdragon chips power the majority of all Android devices, as discussed in our free report on under-the-radar smartphone plays, but Qualcomm also dominates the market for 4G LTE radios. When Apple (NAS: AAPL) shipped the new iPad last week, it was no surprise to find Qualcomm chips running the high-end model's LTE communications. If the next iPhone ships in an LTE version, look for a Qualcomm LTE solution in that one, too.

But all that might change before you know it. The Tegra 3 chipset from NVIDIA (NAS: NVDA) also comes with built-in LTE support -- a first for the graphics-focused chip designer. That opens up fresh competition for the Snapdragon line of LTE-loving mobile processors.

And that's not all. South Korean powerhouse Samsung is getting ready to launch a Qualcomm alternative, too. This matters because Samsung is far and away the most successful maker of Android phones and tablets. Sammy is Qualcomm's largest customer and has been for years. That's about to change.

The company has a history of using Qualcomm's high-speed solutions as needed. The hugely popular Galaxy S2 smartphone series was built around a 1.2-gigahertz version of Samsung's own mobile processor, known as the Exynos. But when shipping into networks with unusual radio bands, like our own T-Mobile USA or anything LTE-related, you get a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon instead. This is because Samsung's own chips aren't equipped to connect to 4G LTE networks or T-Mobile's fastest HSPA+ signals.

The Galaxy S3, however, is expected to launch this summer with a totally LTE-compliant Exynos chipset. An anonymous Samsung executive tells the Korea Times: "Our long-term plan is clear: using Samsung solutions for Samsung products."

If Korea Times is correct, then Qualcomm will face a whole new business landscape in 2012 and beyond. So will Apple, which puts a ton of Samsung parts into iPhones and iPads today.

That doesn't mean you should run out and sell all your Qualcomm shares. A one-trick pony would starve if its largest customer got another horse. If Apple ever moves on to another audio-chip producer, current beau Cirrus Logic (NAS: CRUS) would be up the creek without a paddle. That's why Cirrus is working hard to diversify into other handset makers and even totally different markets, including power controllers for LED lights and garage-door openers.

With a wide customer base and tons of technologies with wide appeal, Qualcomm is relatively safe from that particular risk. Read our special report on hidden smartphone and tablet winners to get a deeper appreciation of the company's many growth opportunities. It's absolutely free, so you've got nothing to lose. Access your free copy today.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundholds no position in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Qualcomm, Cirrus Logic, and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple and NVIDIA, writing puts on NVIDIA, and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Check outAnders' holdings and bio, or follow him onTwitterandGoogle+. We have adisclosure policy.

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