Qualcomm’s Best-Laid Plans for Cell Phone TV Service

Updated Feb. 4 at 3:55 p.m. PST with the House of Representatives approving a four-month delay in DTV conversion. See below for more details.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Qualcomm’s MediaFlo subsidiary unveiled plans to nearly double its FLO TV service for cell phones, by expanding into 108 U.S. markets this year. The San Diego company said it would begin its expansion after Feb. 17, the date when television stations across the country are supposed to switch from analog- to digital-based broadcast equipment, leaving the analog spectrum for FLO TV. Now the company’s expansion plans are on hold, like a late-night TV test pattern.

If the U.S. House of Represenatives revisits a bill that would postpone the digital TV switchover until June 12, MediaFlo’s expansion also will be delayed by four months. “What else you can do?” MediaFlo senior vice president Matt Milne told a San Diego telecom group yesterday. “You wait until the June 12 date, and you do the same thing then that you were going to do on Feb. 17.” In the meantime, he added, “you continue to work on your rollout, and you optimize your networks so you have even more markets ready to go.”

Media Reports from Washington indicate the House could reconsider the issue as early as today, and that a delay appears likely to pass. Milne says that’s what he’s been hearing as well.

Update, Feb. 4:  The House voted 264-158 to postpone the analog-to-digital TV conversion to June 12. Because the Senate passed the measure unanimously last week, the bill now heads to the White House, where President Barack Obama is expected to sign it. 

The Feb. 17 conversion to digital TV is described as a truly historic milestone by CommNexus San Diego, a local wireless industry association that invited MediaFlo’s Milne and other industry experts to discuss the transition yesterday. Bill Zears, the San Diego-based regional director for the Federal Communications Commission, told the group that the government’s latest survey … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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