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Broadcom has opened a new front in its legal battle with Qualcomm, alleging that its rival in the communications chip business is unfairly driving up the cost of third-generation mobile phones.

In a complaint filed in the district court of New Jersey, Broadcom said Qualcomm was breaking federal antitrust law by failing to license its 3G technology “on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms”.

Qualcomm said it was looking into the complaint but believed it was “without merit”.

The suit revolves around the use of code-division multiple access (CDMA) technology, developed largely by Qualcomm and used as the basis for mobile phone services offered by a number of US network operators. A wideband version of the technology, W-CDMA, is incorporated in the international UMTS standard for 3G services.

When the UMTS standard was drawn up in the 1990s, Qualcomm agreed to license W-CDMA on fair and reasonable terms. Broadcom alleges that it has breached this undertaking by offering favourable terms to companies that buy its chips instead of simply licensing the technology.

“Qualcomm's monopoly in CDMA technology has increased the price of cell phones in the US and we are hoping that the courts will prevent the same thing from happening with the next generation of 3G cell phones,” said Scott McGregor, Broadcom chiefexecutive.

In a separate suit filed in May, Broadcom charged Qualcomm with several violations of its patent portfolio.

Qualcomm has been aggressive in defence of its intellectual property, suing a number of companies over their use of CDMA.

Last month, the Delaware Supreme Court rejected Qualcomm's claim that Texas Instruments had violated the terms of a cross-licensing agreement between the two companies.

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