Qualcomm Dodges Bullet in Dispute Over Digital TV Conversion—For Now

1/28/09Follow @bvbigelow

Top executives at San Diego’s Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) must’ve breathed a sigh of relief today, when the U.S. House of Representatives defeated a bill that would have delayed a planned switch to digital TV on Feb. 17. The House vote against the delay followed a bill the Senate passed unanimously on Monday, which called for postponing the digital conversion by four months.

“We opposed the delay of the Feb. 17 DTV transition date, which was set by the U.S. government three years ago,” Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said today during a conference call held to discuss the fiscal first-quarter financial results.

But Jacobs added, “We expect there will be further developments” regarding the proposed delay. Processing that snippet of corporate-speak through my journalistic converter provided this translation: “Stay tuned, because this isn’t over.” Jacobs says the wireless technology company will continue to ask that nine TV stations in four crucial markets—Boston, Houston, Miami, and San Francisco—be excluded in any legislation that would delay the switch.

The Feb. 17 conversion date is crucial to Qualcomm because the company paid more than $550 million last year to acquire operating licenses for the 700 MHz spectrum being vacated by broadcasters.

Qualcomm invested untold millions after that “to extend our innovative FloTV service and to build out the network” for Qualcomm’s MediaFLO mobile TV service, Jacobs said. Qualcomm’s MediaFLO offers 15 channels of digital TV programming on the same frequency that … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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