With MediaFLO Disappointing, Qualcomm Wants to Become a Mobile CDN

Qualcomm’s (s qcom) MediaFLO mobile television network hasn’t met the chipmaker’s expectations, according to COO Len Lauer, who spoke with me at the Mobilize 09 event last week in San Francisco. He said of Qualcomm’s FLO network for broadcasting mobile television, “We’re not where we need to be. We’re not meeting our expectations.”
He blamed the lack of success so far on the few  FLO-enabled devices available and the long wait for a nationwide network. While he was optimistic that FLO would be on more devices and noted that as of the DTV transition, Qualcomm had a nationwide network, he was also quick to portray the FLO network as more than a television delivery network. Yes, boys and girls, it’s a platform.

If mobile TV isn’t the right use for the separate network that Qualcomm has built at a cost of more than $800 million, Lauer thinks it might be used by carriers to help offload demand for video on the 3G and 4G networks, something I’ve mentioned as a possible strategy on how carriers can keep profiting on their mobile networks (GigaOM Pro, subscription required). “The reason we built this, and we’re starting to get more and more interest from network operators, is for network offload,” Lauer said. He said data usage on carrier networks is up by about 400 percent, more than half of which is streaming video, such as content from YouTube. Lauer said that they can help carriers use the FLO network to deliver broadcast or commonly accessed content to the handset and then cache parts of regularly accessed web sites on the device.
However, the FLO network may not be the only game in town for network offload. With this use case in mind, the GSM Association last week endorsed Integrated Mobile Broadband or IMB as one that might also work for offloading video, and one that’s likely to win more favor among carriers, according to telecommunications analyst Chetan Sharma. That’s because it uses spectrum the carriers already own and makes more efficient use of that spectrum for delivering video, as opposed to the FLO network, which is a completely different network operating on Qualcomm’s spectrum. IMB was also developed in conjunction with several carriers such as Vodafone, Telstra, T-Mobile, Orange and SingTel.