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MediaFLO dependent on overseas success says FLO TV president

Qualcomm's FLO TV network operations centre

International success is essential to the progress of Qualcomm’s MediaFLO mobile TV unit, said Bill Stone, president of FLO TV, the US service based on the technology. Qualcomm has a number of trials underway outside of the US, including one with UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB and a partnership with Japanese operator KDDI.

The success of the US operation and overseas projects are mutually dependent, Stone said, before conceding that uptake of the firm’s direct to consumer offering has been disappointing so far. “I’m not happy with the current subscriber numbers,” he said, “they’re not where they need to be.”

He was unwilling to reveal subscriber numbers for the deployments of MediaFLO based services that Qualcomm has in place with US operators AT&T and Verizon, arguing that the data was confidential to the carriers. Verizon launched its service in 2007, followed by AT&T in 2008. The direct to consumer offering, which requires the customer to buy a portable media player and take out a contract with FLO TV, was launched in 2009.

Stone’s comments come in the wake of similar observations from Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, who said recently at a Wall Street Journal conference that overall numbers for MediaFLO uptake had disappointed Qualcomm.

In the US, Qualcomm deployed its own network for the broadcast service, a model that Stone said the firm is not keen to replicate in overseas deployments. “We have no plans to go into network build-outs,” he said. “We’re looking to work with a wide range of partners.” Pay TV providers, content owners, infrastructure players, cellular operators and over the top service providers like Apple and Google are all viable partners for MediaFLO deployments he said. “It can’t just be us in the value chain,” he said. “It has to be other people too.”

While uptake may not have been as fast as Qualcomm might have wished, Stone said that those users who had embraced the service were enthusiastic mobile TV consumers. On the cellular deployments with the two US carriers, average consumption is running at 30 minutes/day, he said, which is considerably more than voice use. On the direct to consumer offering average usage is two hours per day, he said.

Interactivity will prove vital to Mobile TV services in the future, Stone added, revealing that a new interactive element to the AT&T service will launch in the coming weeks. Social networking feeds will be integrated into the TV application, as well as voting and rating functionality.

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