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Qualcomm Says Don't Delay Transition

Posted on Jan. 21 at 6:06 p.m. ET

In advance of today's planned House Energy & Commerce Committee mark-up of a bill to delay the DTV transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12, Qualcomm wrote a letter to committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and his opposite number on the Senate Commerce Committee (Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA), asking that the date not be moved.

But if it is delayed, wrote Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, he wants at least nine stations in four markets to be required to hold to the Feb. 17 date. That would allow Qualcomm to roll out its MediaFLO mobile video service in four more major markets--Boston, Houston, Miami and San Francisco.

Or better yet, require all the stations operating on Qualcomm's channel (55) or adjacent channels 54 and 56, to make the switch on time.

Qualcomm bought licenses for ch. 55 at auction, negotiated early exits by some stations, and has already launched the service in 65 markets, according to the company, with an eye toward a major rollout when it got the balance of its spectrum Feb. 17.

But if the the FCC delays the date and does not exempt the relevant stations, says Jacobs, it will not be able to turn on 100 new transmitters, reach 40 million new customers, expand service in 25 markets, and will have been penalized by the government for "having acted as a responsible FCC licensee in following the law and making the investments necessary to turn on our new transmitters..."

Jacobs said it would be "unfair, unjust and inappropriate" to delay the transition.

He also said that Congress should instead immediately speed the delivery of DTV-to-analog converter box coupons instead of moving the date.

The House and Senate are currently considering bills to move the date to June 12—and the House bill to speed coupon delivery--after Barack Obama's transition team called for the move two weeks ago, citing a hold-up in converter box coupon distribution that put millions of people on a waiting list for the coupons, with no realistic chance of getting them and redeeming them for boxes before the transition date.