Thursday, February 5, 2009

MediaFlo hurt by DTV delay

The House voted yesterday to delay the Digital TV transition by nearly 4 months. A majority of both houses have decided that America is not ready for a transition and thus a delay to June 12 is warranted.

However, delaying the end of analog transmissions (and thus the surrender of those broadcast bands) is also delaying the deployment of new services by the communications companies who paid for rights to those bands, especially in the various 700 MHz bands.

Although AT&T and Verizon own such spectrum, the company most ready to use its spectrum is Qualcomm with its Media Flo service licensed by AT&T and Verizon.

Qualcomm issued a statement Wednesday (although it’s not on its website), with the most complete summary in Telephony magazine:
We are disappointed with the passage of legislation extending the DTV transition date to June 12th. … Due to the investments we made, we were ready for a February 17th transition to provide our innovative FLO TV service nationwide immediately. We are encouraged that several Congressmen and Senators who supported the delay stated that this would be a one-time delay only. In light of the fact that the legislation, as amended and finally passed by Congress, allows TV stations to transition voluntarily between now and June 12th, we cannot determine the specific impact of the final bill's passage on our MediaFLO business.
Due to interference its service causes around (analog) UHF channel 55, Qualcomm will have to delay rollouts in Boston, Houston, Miami and San Francisco; its efforts to have these markets exempted fell on deaf ears.

It’s hard to predict the commercial impact of the delay. Qualcomm has been aggressively planning this rollout for five years, and its speed to market was intended to preempt rivals (at least in the US) from gaining a foothold in the (presumed) lucrative mobile multicast TV market.

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