Qualcomm to take Mobile TV abroad?

Company has just bought some wireless spectrum in the U.K. in what could serve as the basis for a new mobile TV network in Europe.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

Qualcomm may be preparing to launch its MediaFlo mobile TV service in the U.K.

The company this week said it has won 40MHz of wireless spectrum in the U.K. that would be ideal for mobile TV and broadband services. The spectrum is in what's known as the L-band, which is between the frequencies 1452MHz and 1492MHz.

Ofcom, the telecom regulator in the U.K., auctioned off the spectrum earlier this month. And Qualcomm, a wireless chipmaker and mobile patent holder, came away the big winner spending 8.3 million British pounds, or $16.1 million.

So far the company is keeping mum about what it will do with the spectrum. For now, the company plans to use it to test new services and products.

"Qualcomm considers that the L-band spectrum represents at this stage an opportunity to develop, test and explore a variety of emerging business models, innovative wireless services and technologies," a spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "However, we have not taken a decision on spectrum use."

But if the company's spectrum strategy in the U.S. is any indication, Qualcomm could be preparing to build a mobile TV network in Europe. A few years ago, Qualcomm quietly began acquiring spectrum licenses for the analog TV channel 55, which by law must be vacated in February 2009 when broadcasters must switch to digital transmission.

Qualcomm has been working with broadcasters on channel 55 to make the switch earlier so it can deploy its TV service. And the company already has 55 markets up and running. The company also acquired more spectrum in the recent 700MHz spectrum auction that will also be used to expand capacity for the MediaFlo service.

MediaFlo resells its TV service to wireless carriers. Verizon Wireless has offered the MediFlo mobile broadcast TV service for more than a year. And AT&T just started offering MediaFlo for TV service last month.

So far the demand for live broadcast of mobile TV has been disappointing, according to Qualcomm's CEO Paul Jacobs. But the company is hopeful that it will improve as more cities get the service.

So far Qualcomm has only made MediaFlo available in the U.S. And expanding into Europe could be a challenge, since the European Commission seems to be pushing the rival standard DVB-H used across Europe.