Digital TV Conversion Clears Way for Qualcomm’s Flo TV Expansion to Boston, Other Markets

6/10/09Follow @bvbigelow

Qualcomm’s delayed plan to substantially expand the scope of its Flo TV service should finally take effect tomorrow, once television broadcasters in 39 markets turn off their analog transmitters and switch to digital TV broadcasts.

Tomorrow’s planned DTV transition will free broadband spectrum on what was UHF Channel 55 that will be used by Flo TV’s dedicated network. The company’s San Diego broadcast center transmits live and scheduled television news, sports, and entertainment programs nationwide to certain mobile phones on the Verizon and AT&T networks. The company plans to go live immediately in 15 new markets, including Boston, San Francisco, Houston, and Miami.

In an announcement today, Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) says the change will enable Flo TV, a Qualcomm subsidiary, to offer its service to an additional 60 million customers and will expand its total reach to 100 U.S. media markets and more than 200 million potential viewers by the end of this year. Flo TV is currently available in San Diego, Seattle, and Portland.

Qualcomm unveiled plans to nearly double its service for Flo TV-enabled cell phones at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and planned to begin service in 40 U.S. markets after Feb. 17. That was the original deadline for TV stations to shut down their analog broadcasts and convert to digital technology. But Congress, with encouragement from the Obama Administration, postponed the planned digital TV conversion date until June 12.

Flo TV expanded its service in some markets that made the conversion early

Under an agreement disclosed in January, Flo TV said Audiovox would be the exclusive supplier of automotive electronic systems that will connect to existing video equipment, enabling passengers to watch Flo TV on the road. Audiovox also got rights to make the only Flo TV-ready video systems that drop down from a vehicle’s ceiling, as well as units that go into the back of head rests.

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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