Qualcomm, mindful of how much it stands to lose if the transition to DTV is delayed, yesterday sent a letter to several legislators begging them to force nine TV stations in Boston, Miami, San Francisco and Houston to stop transmitting their broadcasts on the analog channels Qualcomm wants to use for its MediaFLO mobile TV service. At least one of the PBS stations that Qualcomm is asking to get off the air has said it won’t drop its analog signal until Congress orders it do so.
Scott Walton, executive director of communications for Northern California Public Broadcasting, which operates a PBS station in San Francisco and other Bay Area cities in one of the analog channels Qualcomm wants to use, says the station is broadcasting in digital, but will likely keep its analog signal on for as long as Congress will let it.
“My own personal preference is we just do this, but at the same time, the fact is there are people who are not prepared. They did try to get these coupons and they are not available,” says Walton, referencing the fact that the government program responsible for offering $40 coupons to offset the cost of a digital converter box has run out of money.
However, Qualcomm is rightly upset over the delay in serving 15 new markets that represent a potential 40 million MediaFLO subscribers. Houston, San Francisco, Boston and Miami are the four largest remaining cities in which Qualcomm has so far been unable to offer its mobile television service to AT&T and Verizon subscribers, and are the target of its protests. Having spent millions building out the MediaFLO network itself, as well as the cost of buying the spectrum license, Qualcomm is chafing at the delay. Other spectrum holders are unhappy, but have so far gone along with the four-month proposed delay.
If Qualcomm keeps pushing, and station owners are unwilling to drop their users, will we see the “Sesame Street” crew come out against CDMA? Ken Burns shoot an epic documentary about wireless broadband, casting Qualcomm as the villain? This could get ugly.