Qualcomm’s Jacobs laments sluggish pace of MediaFLO

RCR Wireless News
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Qualcomm Inc.’s push into the broadcast mobile TV space has been going slower than the company would like, CEO Paul Jacobs said in a keynote at the Tech Policy Summit here this morning.

Qualcomm’s subsidiary MediaFLO USA Inc. introduced services with Verizon Wireless more than a year ago and has plans to launch through AT&T Mobility, although that rollout has suffered multiple delays.

“(The carriers) haven’t spent a lot of advertising on it to this point,” Jacobs said, adding that they may be waiting for MediaFLO to increase its coverage.

"It’s not as nationwide as we would have liked,” he said. “We’re really waiting for February 2009 to get the real digital transition done.”

TV broadcasters, some of which operate in the same spectrum that MediaFLO is waiting to launch services in, are to retire analog broadcasts by February and move off the spectrum.

Jacobs didn’t address the continued MediaFLO delays at AT&T Mobility. Sources familiar with the matter say legal issues involving Qualcomm’s chipset are partly to blame. The issue stems from the International Trade Commission’s ruling against the importation of Qualcomm’s chips; Verizon Wireless last year inked a licensing deal with Broadcom Corp. – which brought the action against Qualcomm to the ICT – in order to sidestep such legal issues.

“People try and characterize us as a litiguous company, but the reality is companies came after us,” Jacobs said. “It’s easy for a company to come in and stretch a patent very broadly. It’s very difficult for a jury to understand these very complex technological issues.”

Patent reform

In discussing Qualcomm’s legal quandries, Jacobs took up the issue of patent reform, which is currently wending its way through Congress.

“I think some of the patent reform legislation goes a little bit too far,” Jacobs said. “We have some concerns about things like the post-grant review,” which Qualcomm views as at attempt to change existing standards that would revise an already-helpful framework.

“In the post-grant review issue right now, we’re talking about changing the burden of proof, but we think that’s not such a good idea,” he said. “We don’t want some of those things to change, but there’s clearly some middle ground to be found.”

Spectrum reform

Qualcomm’s chief executive also addressed spectrum issues, but declined to discuss the company’s plans for licenses it recently won in the 700 MHz auction. Qualcomm spent around $500 million for a handful of licenses.

Jacobs argued that the government needs to free up more spectrum for private enterprise.

“There’s still more spectrum out there,” Jacobs said. “We like the idea of getting more spectrum available because the data usage is coming up.”

He pointed out that nearly 500 MHz of low-frequency spectrum currently resides in unlicensed bands, which Qualcomm would like to see brought into the fold.

“Unlicensed isn’t very good for wide-area services because you can have all kinds of interference,” he said. “I believe that that spectrum should be licensed.”

Recruiting troubles

Finally, Jacobs spoke strongly against immigration issues that have caused a brain drain at companies like Qualcomm, which are agressively recruiting young talent out of American colleges.

“I fundamentally think that this is one of the scariest things going on in the United States right now,” he said.

He added that more than 60% of the people Qualcomm hires out of univiersities are foreign born.

“That’s the kind of ratios that are in schools,” he said. “If we’re sending people home that’s pretty scary.”

Qualcomm intends to apply for 400 visas next month, but expects only half to get approved.

“It’s a really bad situation right now,” Jacobs said. “It’s gotten too political.”

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