The question is whether or not consumers will pay for mobile television service. The people have voted with their dollars, and now Qualcom’s subsidiary FLO TV has announced that it’s shutting down the service that it sells directly to subscribers, as reported by TWICE. The company also announced that it will continue to support the branded versions of the service that it provides to AT&T and Verizon. Verizon’s V Cast and AT&T’s Mobile TVwill continue to operate, at least for now. Apparently Qualcom is looking to sell off some or perhaps all the 700 MHz spectrum that it bought to deliver its mobile TV signals. There could be strong demand for it for wireless broadband services, or some company may want to lease the network as it stands so that it can deliver its own content.
I’d have to say that it’s unlikely that Qualcom’s heart was ever really in this project. It is a chip company, and it wanted to sell its tuner chips to cellphone makers and other consumer electronic manufacturers. Without a network, there was no demand, so Qualcom went out and built its own network. In spite of support from third-party manufactures such as Audiovox, consumers were slow to sign up for the $15 per month service that offered about 20 channels of content from major networks.
Now that one mobile TV service has bit the dust, it remains to be seen whether or not the free Mobile DTV system can find a toehold. Early indications from a test roll-out in the Washington DC market were positive, but the sample of users was tiny and it’s not clear whether or not the consumer electronics manufacturers are going to make devices to support the system. It may be that wireless broadband will give users on-demand access to video from the Internet, and simply overtake these systems that attempt to recreate the traditional broadcast programming model.