AT&T Taps Qualcomm for mobile TV

The battle over mobile TV standards in the U.S. tips to Qualcomm — AT&T (Cingular) says it will offer Qualcomm’s MediaFLO mobile TV services in late 2007. The launch will likely come after Verizon Wireless starts offering MediaFLO to its customers sometime between now and March. We’re glad mobile TV is getting closer to launch in the U.S., but man, the Qualcomm closed ecosystem wins again.

A Cingular spokesperson explains the reason behind the company’s decision to go with MediaFLO over the open, European-backed standard DVB-H:

After evaluating DVB-H, we found that MediaFLO USA’s underlying technology offered several key advantages over DVB-H: Faster channel switching time. Low battery power consumption. A broad mix of content. FLO technology can support full-length programming, short-format content, audio programming, and real-time entertainment and information feeds. This rich mix of services can be offered at TV quality, for a sharp, clear picture. DVB-H cannot support a similar service offering without degradation in quality.

Now that Qualcomm has wrapped up the two largest U.S. wireless carriers in its mobile TV plans, and has other U.S. carriers testing the service as well, the mobile TV multicast standard in the U.S. is looking largely decided.

Why are carriers going with Qualcomm over other standards? According to Cingular, the technology was just better. There’s also the fact that Qualcomm has the size to support a nationwide rollout of service, while DVB-H hasn’t had particulary strong backers in the U.S.

Losing out on the Cingular contract certainly seems to add a nail to the coffin of Modeo, which has been working on a service based on the DVB-H standard, and has been running a trial in New York. Modeo has yet to sign up any carriers for its service, (or at least hadn’t as of January when I last talked to them) and is reportedly in dire need of new investment.