FCC Gives Tentative Approval to MediaFLO

The FCC this week approved the use of Qualcomm's MediaFLO mobile video service, with conditions.

Qualcomm petitioned the commission in January 2005, seeking changes in FCC rules and policies in connection with implementation of its MediaFLO service on television channel 55 throughout the United States, and, in particular, sought relief from established interference protection rules.

The FCC said its Office of Engineering and Technology Bulletin No. 69 (OET-69), with certain modifications, provides appropriate methodology for demonstrating whether or not MediaFLO is compliant with FCC rules governing interference protection in the 700 MHz band. At the same time, the FCC declined a request from Qualcomm to declare that predicted interference to not more than two percent of the population served by either an analog or digital television broadcaster is de minimis and therefore acceptable.

However, the FCC did grant Qualcomm a limited waiver, using a measured approach, where allowable interference caused by MediaFLO to a broadcast television service (analog or digital) will rise each year beginning with the release of the FCC's order this week.

This ceiling on allowable interference will continue to rise until the end of the DTV transition in February 2009. During the first year, interference is limited to 0.5 percent of the population within the television station's grade B coverage contour. This increases to 1.0 percent the second year and to 1.5 percent for the remainder of the transition.

Under the order, Qualcomm is not allowed to generate any new interference to a broadcaster entitled to protection and which is either already experiencing interference to 10 percent or more of the station's coverage area, or which would experience interference to 10 percent of its grade B coverage as a result of MediaFLO operations.

The FCC also responded to a request from Qualcomm to establish streamlined processing procedures for any OET-69 showings. The commission declined to establish such streamlined procedures.

"Today's ruling is a big win for consumers, who will soon be able to enjoy new and exciting mobile TV experiences from MediaFLO USA," said Gina Lombardi, president of MediaFLO USA. "This ruling enables MediaFLO USA to launch its services to millions of customers across the nation."

Commissioner Michael J. Copps commented on the ruling.

"Certainly, I want to take all appropriate steps to enable the petitioner in the above captioned item to provide its innovative subscription-based mobile video service in advance of the DTV transition," Copps said. "At the same time, we must ensure that this new service does not materially interfere with the ability of broadcasters to provide free, over-the-air programming to their customers (including Spanish language programming in at least one large market)."

Copps said that while he would have preferred stronger protection for television broadcasters, he felt that the decision represented a reasonable compromise.

NAB, MSTV, APTS and others had filed comments with the FCC opposing the Qualcomm request.