If Qualcomm Builds Mobile TV, Will Viewers Come?
By Mike Masnick, Tue Nov 02 19:30:00 GMT 2004

Qualcomm has decided that it needs to play an active role in jumpstarting mobile TV by building its own network to broadcast video content to mobile phones. There's just one problem: who's going to jumpstart user interest?

Qualcomm realized quite some time ago that the more people use wireless applications over CDMA networks, the better off the company will be. It owns a huge chunk of patents concerning the technology, and the success of CDMA (in various flavors) means much more for Qualcomm's bottom line. As part of this, the company has actively tried to jumpstart new and innovative applications. For example, BREW was designed as a way to get more innovative mobile data applications into the market quickly.

The latest effort, however, might be going a bit too far. Qualcomm has announced that its MediaFlo subsidiary will be building a multimedia network that will broadcast 100 channels of content in the 700 MHz band to mobile devices using either W-CDMA or CDMA2000 technology. Qualcomm obviously isn't interested in being a content player or a traditional broadcaster -- but hopes that this network will jumpstart mobile TV offerings for carriers, and guarantee greater success for CDMA-based 3G networks just as those networks might start to face some competition from other forms of wireless broadband.

There's still one major problem with all of this: there's almost no evidence that anyone wants mobile TV. In fact, a new study suggests just the opposite. People on the go just aren't that interested in watching live TV. There may be some interest in video from the content creation side, but broadcast video is something that people watch when they have the time. It doesn't "fit in" with what people are doing when they're on the go. There are, clearly, a few niche exceptions, but it's not at all clear a few niches are worth nearly a billion dollars to build such a network while hoping that an audience exists.

The core advantage of mobile data networks is that they are interactive. They're used for communication. Broadcasting can (and obviously will) be an element of that, but that's not what makes those networks interesting and compelling. Limiting a network to just broadcast content doesn't offer anything new. Simply recreating a broadcast platform to send the same content to mobile devices is a waste of time, money and spectrum. Already, too much spectrum is devoted to broadcast-only content. If Qualcomm wants to help jumpstart more data usage on 3G networks, why not help come up with more ways to really embrace what's different about those networks, rather than recreating what already exists?