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Qualcomm Open to Selling FLO TV Unit

The future of FLO TV is uncertain, even to Qualcomm’s chief, who’d like to provide the technology, but not the service itself

Sarah Thomas

July 2, 2010

3 Min Read
Qualcomm Open to Selling FLO TV Unit

SAN DIEGO -- Uplinq -- Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) never wanted to be the service provider behind its mobile FLO TV service, according to its CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs. In fact, if the opportunity presented itself, it'd be open to selling off this underperforming unit of its business."It's not likely that [Flo TV] will stay the way it is today, which is just cable TV content sold primarily through cellular operators," he told media at Qualcomm's Uplinq conference this week.

Qualcomm wants to be only the technology provider, its traditional mode of business, although Jacobs said he isn't afraid of assuming the service provider role to push a technology, as the company did for TD-LTE in India's Broadband Wireless Auction. (See Qualcomm Unveils LTE Plans for India.)

Jacobs said there are all sorts of possibilities that could happen; the company is willing to talk to potential partners or even buyers about assuming the service provider role. He also noted that Qualcomm is getting a lot of traction for its MediaFLO technology outside the US.

Datacasting apps
This isn't the only unanswered question about the future of the mobile TV service, though. Uplinq attendees also wondered whether datacasting, a broadcast technology that allows Qualcomm to deliver multimedia content without taxing the 3G network, would replace live, streaming content in Qualcomm's TV delivery.

Jacobs said that live content still has a place in the service, and that datacasting will just be an additional option for the content that consumers don't care to consume live. The technology is not ideal for personalized, one-to-one video, but it is efficient for use in broadcasting regularly scheduled, one-to-many media. The Wall Street Journal or a weekly magazine would be good candidates for datacasting, according to Vicki Mealer, senior director of product management for FLO TV and Qualcomm MediaFLO technologies.

Prior to this week's show, FLO TV announced a developers conference for Brew and Android to explore the potential of datacasting. Right now, FLO TV is a straightforward live mobile TV service that Qualcomm provides to carriers like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless and directly to consumers. But it's open to any number of new apps that might enhance the service without adding extra traffic to the network.

Especially with AT&T and, presumably, soon-to-be others tiering their data plans, Mealer said FLO TV will promote the message that it owns its own multicast network and, therefore, doesn't count towards any data caps. With the onslaught of video apps, caps are likely to become a concern for consumers. (See 5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps and CTIA 2010: Qualcomm's Tony Lutz.)

"Users are used to YouTube or CNN, and most don't even know what 200 megabytes gets you," she said, adding that people don't often know the difference between a service that uses data and one that doesn't -- something FLO TV hopes to make clear.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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