Qualcomm CEO Confident Broadcasters Will Give Up Spectrum

Wonders whether they will "want to waste the electricity to run the towers" if they can get guaranteed carriage of content on other platforms

Qualcomm CEO
Paul Jacobs says he has "high hopes" that the FCC will be able to get
broadcasters to "move off" of their spectrum,

that he still has hopes
for mobile video despite not having found the
right model with FLO TV, and says the FCC should allow tiered pricing
combined with transparency to give consumers an idea of what
applications are sucking up a lot of bandwidth.

That's according to an advance copy of an interview with Jacobs for C-SPAN's Communicators series, scheduled for airing Friday.

Saying
500 Mhz is "a lot to go get"--referring to the FCC's target of how much
spectrum it wanted to free up for mobile broadband over the next 10
years--Jacobs said he thought incentive auctions could
free up "large chunks" of that spectrum, but that more would still be
needed.

To back up
that hopeful analysis, he pointed to Qualcomm's success in paying some
broadcasters to clear off their channels in advance of the DTV
transition (Qualcomm created its FLO TV video service
with that spectrum). "We have some experience with that ourselves
because we bought spectrum in one of the spectrum auctions," he said,
"and we were able to incent some broadcasters to turn
their systems off and let us start broadcasting."
Jacobs added that it would
be more difficult to get spectrum away from government users, though he
said spectrum sharing may help out in that scenario.

Asked by
Telecommunications Reports Senior Editor Paul Kirby, guest interviewer
for the program, whether 500 Mhz would be enough, Jacobs said he thought
there would be demand for more: "I
think there is going to be a continuing demand for spectrum."

The FCC is
looking to broadcasters to provide up to 120 Mhz of that 500 through
clearing off channels, sharing channels, and consuming less bandwidth,
but to do that it must first get Congress's approval
to compensate broadcasters through incentive auctions, the only way
they will volunteer their spectrum.

Jacobs said
that he thought Congress would be able to approve those auctions "in a
reasonable time frame," pointing out that they would mean money for the
treasury as well as broadcasters.

Asked how
much spectrum could be reclaimed through those incentive auctions,
Jacobs said he understood broadcasters occupied 300 Mhz and said "that
gets you a fairly long way there."  When Kirby pointed
out that would mean clearing broadcasters off entirely, Jacobs
suggested it might wind up being more than the 120 Mhz once there was
money on the table.

"The
interesting thing will be the dynamic that is created once there is a
market system, and then you see who really wants to participate. Do the
broadcasters still want to be over the air, because,
as we know, most people are getting their content through cable or
satellite today. And so, we'll see how that goes," he said.

He pondered
that if the stations can put their content on those other platforms, and
they are "guaranteed" to get to do that (say, through some form of
must-carry), "do they really want to waste the
electricity to run the towers?"

He said that
when Qualcomm was asking broadcasters to clear off to make way for
their FLO system, "we found that people were really willing to make that
trade-off."

Jacobs said
that his advice to the FCC on net neutrality was to allow tiered
pricing, let consumers know how much bandwidth they are using, and put
some pressure on application providers to be more
efficient in their bandwidth use.

He wants the
FCC to make sure consumers know what applications are using up their
bucket of minutes, so the consumer can see that as a cost to them.

Qualcomm has
backed off its consumer targeted FLO TV service--it has stopped its
direct-to-consumer sales of a device for TV reception of the
service--and is looking at either selling it or becoming
a pipe rather than a multichannel video content aggregator. The service
is still being provided to cell phones, he said.

He said
there are a number of parties interested in buying the service. He did
not say which. Those included media companies who he said were thinking
about downloading magazines and newspapers, and
device manufacturers or applications providers who could use that pipe
to update software.

But if video
was supposed to be the killer app for mobile, why did it not seem to
work for FLO? Jacobss said there were things that people wanted to watch
on their phones, but other things they didn't.
"Live sports was very good," he said, "breaking news was very good, but
episodic TV wasn't very good."

He suggested
that there would still be mobile video, but through a combination of
delivery mechanisms, some better for live, some better for caching
content. "But I do believe very strongly that we
will still have mobile TV, it just may be in a different form."