Qualcomm Gets MediaFLO OK

After months of waiting, Qualcomm has finally gotten the FCC go-ahead, with some caveats, for its MediaFLO mobile video service using spectrum in the 700 mhz broadcast band.

Qualcomm had asked for a declaratory ruling that its method of measuring possible interference from broadcasters who will be in the band through the end of the DTV transition (February 2009) was acceptable. The FCC said it was.

Qualcomm did not get all it asked for, however. Rather than an FCC ruling that a 2% interference threshold was acceptable, the FCC established a .5% standard for the first year, escalating up to 1.5% by the end of the transition, when more broadcasters will have vacated their spectrum

Qualcomm's service will not be allowed to cause any additional interference to stations already facing at least 10% interference from other sources.

The FCC approved the move unanimously, saying it would speed the roll-out of advanced services while causing minimal disruption to broadcasters in the run-up to the transition, when they will all be moved out of the 700 mhz band and into chs. 2-52.

Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps said he was concerned about interference during the transition and would have preferred greater protections for broadcasters.

Qualcomm is planning to operate the service on ch. 55, so channels 54, 55, and 56 are the ones that will be potentially affected. They have a nationwide license for the channel.

Qualcomm will also be required to file the requisite applications and engineering studies for all geographic regions where it wants to operate the service and there are existing stations, rather than getting a fast-track to the service.

Qualcomm had hoped to launch in the fall, but likely now could not start up until first quarter 2007.

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.