Qualcomm Plans Expanded Mobile TV Service

Qualcomm's recently acquired spectrum will enable it to expand its MediaFLO mobile TV offering in five major metropolitan regions. 

Qualcomm plans to use its newly acquired airwaves from the 700MHz spectrum auction to expand the company's mobile TV offerings. In the recently concluded auction, Qualcomm paid $554.6 million for five new licenses.

While Qualcomm already owns enough spectrum for a national footprint, the auction allowed the company to acquire large, contiguous areas on the east and west coasts, including the Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco regions.

In addition, Qualcomm paid another $3.5 million to acquire licenses in Southern California to allow the company's research and development teams to deploy their mobile broadband technologies. Qualcomm and its mobile entertainment service, MediaFLO, are located in San Diego.

"Our strategic purchase of E block licenses will enhance our efforts in the mobile TV space and further MediaFLO USA's mission to bring world class mobile entertainment to American consumers," Qualcomm CEO Paul E. Jacobs said in a statement.

Qualcomm's April 3 statement came on the same day the Federal Communications Commission lifted its veil of silence on auction participants.

MediaFLO offers full-length simulcast and time-shifted programming for use on mobile phones. The subscription service includes programming from broadcasters CBS, NBC and Fox and cable shows from MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and ESPN, among others.

"We're really at the beginning of the service. We're still in the process of building out the service," MediaFLO USA President Gina Lombardi told eWEEK. "We're already in 58 markets but we still have a long way to go in building out a national network."

Lombardi said it would be "several years from now" before the service is completely built out. The service is now available to more than 130 million people.

"When consumers see it, they like it," Lombardi said. "It looks like HDTV on a mobile phone. Younger viewers are skewing toward music channels while older viewers like news."

Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology uses spectrum in the 716-722MHz band, which was previously designated for UHF television Channel 55. The technology transmits on a separate frequency than used by current cellular networks.

Verizon Wireless and Qualcomm announced a MediaFLO partnership in late 2005 with Verizon Wireless commercially launching the service as VCAST in early 2007. AT&T Mobility plans to launch MediaFLO services later this year.

"We have defined the mobile TV experience nationwide with our FLO TV service, and the acquisition of additional spectrum in many of America's largest cities provides us with the flexibility to take the mobile entertainment experience to the next level," Lombardi said.