Allen Salmasi

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NLabs Inc.
MSEE ’79, BSEE, ’77, BSIM ’77

For tremendous entrepreneurial success and development of innovative wireless technologies, such as the first Mobile Virtual Network Operator in support of major telecom operators’ mobile services

The spirit of adventure and innovation that defines space missions permeates Allen Salmasi’s career, which he began as a research engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is an entrepreneur who has launched companies that have revolutionized wireless communications.

In 1996, Salmasi and his team at NextWave Telecom Inc. developed and implemented the first Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) service with MCI Corp. as its first major customer. MVNOs buy data and minutes of use in bulk and usually offer plans to customers at cheaper rates. Today, wireless service plans literally in every country in the world — along with nearly all prepaid plans — are offered through MVNOs.

Ultimately, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and others acquired the assets of both NextWave Telecom Inc. and NextWave Wireless Inc. — a spinoff company that Salmasi founded in 2005.

Salmasi credits a few significant moments during his time at Purdue with his interest in satellite and mobile communications.

“While taking a course on semiconductor theory and applications, I became fascinated with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and decided to ‘uncover’ its mystery by pursuing a career in semiconductor design,” Salmasi says. “Once I took courses with Professors George Cooper and Clare McGillem, my fascination extended to satellite and mobile communications. Eventually, my interest in those areas of engineering converged to define my professional career path.”

Before NextWave, Salmasi was a member of the Board of Directors, president of the Wireless Communications Division and chief strategic officer of Qualcomm Inc. He initiated and led the development of wireless business, including chipset and handset product developments, licensing and standards programs for Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology in 1989. In 1991, he also initiated the Globalstar low-earth-orbit mobile satellite communications project at Qualcomm in partnership with Loral Space and Communications.

Prior to Qualcomm, Salmasi founded Omninet Corp. and led the development of the world’s first and largest commercial terrestrial mobile satellite communications service for two-way messaging and position reporting services called OmniTRACS. This product embodied the first commercial application of CDMA and opened the door to many applications of that technology globally.

In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton awarded Salmasi for his innovations and contributions to the wireless industry. Salmasi also received Purdue’s Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer Award in that year.

Currently, through his venture capital firm NLabs Inc., Salmasi supports innovation through investments in media, communications, computing and biotechnology sectors.

“On day one, almost no one believed that CDMA, MVNO or OmniTRACS would ever have a chance of seeing daylight,” Salmasi says. “But if you have designed a breakthrough system, you have to have confidence that you will ultimately prevail in bringing a disruptive technology or a unique service offering to the marketplace.”

We all come from stardust and will vanish into the same. The streaks that we collectively leave behind define humanity and its fate for many eons to come. The universe may yet be at its infancy, but a few billion years from now, the only thing that may be left of humanity is our collective streaks that will manifest themselves in forms that we cannot even imagine today.”

Allen Salmasi

Career Highlights

2013-present Founder, Chairman and CEO, NLabs Inc.
1995-2013 Founder, Chairman, CEO and President, NextWave Wireless Inc.
1988-1995 President, Wireless Communications, Chief Strategic Officer and member of the Board of Directors, Qualcomm Inc.
1984-1988 Founder, CEO and President, Omninet Corporation
1979-1984 Research Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory


1977 BS Electrical Engineering, Purdue University
1977 BS Industrial Management, Purdue University
1979 MS Electrical Engineering, Purdue University
1982 MS Applied Mathematics, University of Southern California
1983 Completed coursework toward a PhD in EE