Qualcomm Vows to Fight Analog Cutoff Delay

Since 2006, Qualcomm has looked forward to the Feb. 17 digital TV transition… something virtually everyone without rabbit ears in the civilized world is similarly looking forward to.

For Qualcomm, the transition means it would be able to turn on its MediaFLO mobile TV service in markets such as Boston, Houston, Miami and San Francisco as traditional broadcasters moved to new frequencies.

Ironically, the company now finds itself one of the vocal opponents of a last-minute move to postpone the Feb. 17 cutoff.

Concerned that consumers are not prepared for the switch and that a converter-box coupon program has run out of money, some members of Congress and the new presidential administration have proposed a four-month delay.

Although we don’t hear much about this proposed delay… it could happen. So it’s easy to see why a company like Qualcomm would be on edge about such a prospect.

Qualcomm has reportedly spent nearly a half-billion dollars buying the rights to portions of the airwaves and says it has “spent hundreds of millions of dollars more building Media-FLO networks that sit idle waiting for the analog TV broadcasts to end.”

In a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chief Executive Paul Jacobs called the proposed delay “unfair, unjust and inappropriate.” He said the debate over the transition date pits the interests of 2 million consumers who get analog TV signals from antennas against 40 million consumers unable to subscribe to mobile TV.

Qualcomm owns licenses to the portion of the spectrum that carries Channel 55 TV signals. Jacobs has asked Congress not to delay the transition, or at a minimum to enforce the Feb. 17 cutoff for nine stations broadcasting on Channel 55.

“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 February 17, 2009,” Jacobs wrote.