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Qualcomm: DTV Delay Will Hurt MediaFLO Debut

San Diego — Qualcomm asked Congress not to postpone the Feb. 17digital TV transition date, contending any change would delay the quick rollout of its MediaFLO TV service, which uses analog-channel 55 to transmit 15 channels of video programming to specially-equipped cellular handsets.

At the very least, CEO Paul Jacobs said, Congress should require nine UHF stations to adhere to the original Feb. 17 analog-TV cutoff in the Boston, Houston, Miami, and San Francisco markets, where MediaFLO TV is ready to launch within days of analog TV stations turning off their analog signals.

In letters to the chairmen and ranking members of key Senate and House committees, Jacobs said his backup proposal would be “a fair and reasonable compromise, would not cause any real consumer disruption, and would avoid penalizing Qualcomm for having followed the law.”

Several years ago, Qualcomm purchased Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licenses for channel 55 spectrum and has since launched MediaFLO TV subscription service in 65 markets. If the analog cutoff occurs nationwide as planned on Feb. 17, FLO TV could expand to 78 markets by the end of March, a Qualcomm spokesperson told TWICE during International CES. By the end of 2009, the service would be available in 107 markets with a population of 200 million people, she said at the time.

On Feb. 18 and a few days thereafter, Jacobs said in his letter, “We will turn on 100 new transmitters all over the country. Those new transmitters will allow a total of 40 million consumers in 15 markets to enjoy MediaFLO for the first time and consumers in 25 markets in which MediaFLO is offered on a limited basis to enjoy an expanded service.” The bulk of those 40 million people reside in Boston, Houston, Miami and San Francisco, he added.

“We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build these new transmitters and to put all the plans in place to bring MediaFLO to consumers all over the country, beginning on Feb. 18,” the letter said. “To be clear, any delay of the DTV transition date will prevent 40 million Americans from enjoying our MediaFLO service and will penalize Qualcomm for having acted as a responsible FCC licensee in following the law and making the investments necessary to turn on our transmitters as soon as the DTV transition ends on Feb. 17, 2009. For these reasons, we believe that it would be unfair, unjust and inappropriate to delay the DTV transition beyond Feb. 17, 2009.”

Qualcomm said it supports legislation to accelerate the delivery of converter-box coupons to consumers, ensuring that “consumers will get the coupons they have requested, but without undermining the extensive, nationwide efforts made by all affected stakeholders to educate the public about the impending Feb. 17 transition date.”