Qualcomm buys UK spectrum

US wireless chip giant Qualcomm bought 40MHz of L-band spectrum in the UK on May 16 for £8.3m. The move fuelled speculation that Qualcomm could be planning to offer mobile television services in the UK.

The auction was for spectrum in the 1452-1492 MHz band, known as L-band, which is suitable for offering mobile television services, but also for wireless broadband and satellite radio.

̶0;Acquiring this spectrum will enable us to develop, test and explore a variety of innovative wireless services and technologies that will benefit European consumers and the wireless industry as a whole,̶1; said Andrew Gilbert, executive vice president of Qualcomm and president of Qualcomm Internet Services, MediaFLO Technologies and Qualcomm Europe.

The spectrum was released on a technology and service-neutral basis, so the holder can choose what technology to use, what services to offer and to change their use of the spectrum over time. The licence issued is tradable.

Qualcomm UK Spectrum Ltd will be able to use its licence with immediate effect. If it decides to use it to offer television on mobile phones, it will have to prove it can do better than BT did last year. BT closed its Movio mobile TV white label platform, the first commercial mobile television service in the UK. Virgin Mobile was BT̵7;s customer, but attracted insufficient customers, despite a TV advertising campaign featuring Pamela Anderson.

BT Movio used the DAB-IP standard. Meanwhile, European Commissioner Viviane Reding has said she wants a unified standard for Europe, mentioning DVB-H.

Qualcomm̵7;s MediaFlo technology is already used to offer mobile TV in the US by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. In 2006 Qualcomm held trials of MediaFlo in Cambridge, UK, together with British Sky Broadcasting.

Other bidders in the Ofcom auction included Arqiva, Danish network operator Vectone, and US satellite radio operator WorldSpace. The auction was held online from the 6 May 2008 to the 14 May 2008. Ofcom plans future auctions of radio spectrum at 2.6GHz and the spectrum that will be released through the switchover to digital television.

Image: Pamela Anderson could not get mobile TV started in the UK. Can Qualcomm do better?

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