FCC Grants Qualcomm Permission

The FCC has granted Qualcomm permission to operate on channel 55 in St. Louis and Norfolk, Va., after WRSP, the Fox station on channel 55 in nearby Springfield, Ill., and WHAG, The NBC station in Hagerstown, Md., agreed to accept interference to some analog viewers.

In St. Louis, the interference would affect approximately 34,000 viewers, though only 2,161 of those would not have access to another Fox analog station (KTVI St. Louis), and all would still have access to WRSP's digital signal.

The situation is reversed in Hagerstown, with 19,089 viewers receiving interference to their DTV signal, but with all of them receiving the station's analog signal and only 357 of them predicted not to be able to receive a DTV signal from elsewhere, and those only until the end of the DTV transition in 2009.

Qualcomm says it is spending $800 million to roll out a national video service, MediaFLO, to wireless phones using channel 55, which is being vacated along with other channels in the 700 mHz band when TV switches to all-digital in 2009.

In the interim, the FCC is allowing Qualcomm to pay stations to vacate the band early, and nearby stations to accept increased interference levels, so it can launch its next-generation wireless service.

The FCC takes into account how many viewers will be affected and what alternative viewing
choices they have before deciding whether to grant the applications.

In support of its decision to grant the Qualcomm application, including the station's agreement to accept greater interference than FCC rules generally allow, the commission cited the possibility that the service will spur new content and technology, as well as the fact that relatively few people would be affected by the interference.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas two weeks, Qualcomm said it was on track to launch in the first quarter. They are already testing in five markets, but the roll-out will be in more than five markets.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.