Qualcomm's Jacobs: Happy To Work With Broadcasters on Mobile DTV


Chip giant Qualcomm is open to working with broadcasters in bringing local broadcast content to mobile phones, Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs said Tuesday after a keynote address at the NAB show in Las Vegas.

Jacobs was headlining the "MoTV" mini-conference to pitch the vast potential of watching video on mobile handsets, and specifically, to talk about new capabilities for its MediaFLO service, which broadcasts eight channels of live video through UHF spectrum to special Verizon Wireless handsets. Jacobs says that Qualcomm will continue to roll out MediaFLO in more markets and exploit the rapidly falling price of memory to allow non-real-time services to be delivered and stored on MediaFLO phones, thus allowing the service to expand its content offerings to less popular, niche programming.

Jacobs also said that Qualcomm plans to integrate local content into the MediaFLO service.

"We will have in the future the ability to put local content on the service, the technology is designed to do that, and we want to work with broadcasters to do that," said Jacobs.

Broadcasters who are promoting in-band mobile DTV services, such as the Samsung A-VSB and Harris/LG MPH systems, have maintained that it will be prohibitively expensive for MediaFLO to deliver on those plans. They says Qualcomm will either have to grab local content from stations nationwide and route it back via fiber to its San Diego operations center, then transmit it via satellite, as DirecTV does for its local services, or take the potentially more costly step of developing local insertion centers in each market that could ingest local broadcast content and then retransmit it using MediaFLO's Ch. 55 spectrum.

When asked what course Qualcomm is likely to take, Jacobs says that it will simply come down to whichever method was cheaper.

"It will probably be dictated by the economics of setting up local insertion centers," he said.

Jacobs was then asked by audience member Mark Aitken, a technology executive with Sinclair Broadcast Group who is heavily involved with mobile DTV and broadcasters' new Open Mobile Video Coalition, whether Qualcomm would be willing to incorporate the ability to support an ATSC mobile DTV standard within its mobile phone chipset. Jacobs said that Qualcomm would, and noted that the company had already developed a Universal Mobile TV chip that receives the FLO, DVB-H and ISD-T standards.

"Absolutely, and we would like to work with you on that," said Jacobs to Aitken. "If that's the way local gets onto the phone, then more power to you guys...We're about putting more capabilities on the phone, as that drives our core chipset business. So the more capabilities, the better. We look forward to working with you."

In a private exchange outside the ballroom, Aitken told Jacobs that Sinclair CEO David Smith would like to meet with him to discuss the idea further, and Jacobs expressed interest in setting up a meeting.