Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Getting with Qualcomm's FLO

Infoworld Nederland reports on the formation of a new industry group, The FLO Forum, to push and standardize FLO (Forward Link Only) technology for transmitting multimedia content to mobile devices. Qualcomm is pioneering FLO and aims to set up "a nationwide network in the U.S. that will offer video and audio content to mobile phone users."

Qualcomm has set up MediaFLO USA to aggregate content and deliver it over the network, and wholesale the service only in the U.S., which will allow other companies to build and run FLO networks elsewhere. One key sticking point is only handsets with Qualcomm's FLO chipset will be able to access programming.

According to Ken Hyers of ABI Research, "MediaFLO could play a key role for mobile operators that want to deliver multimedia content to millions of subscribers but don't want to build out an infrastructure for it. Setting up a multicast service on their own would also require them to set aside a radio band just for that service."

Albert Lin at AmTechnology Research agrees that "operators don't want bandwidth-intensive new services cutting into their capacity to deliver e-mail, instant messaging and SMS (Short Message Service) traffic, which use little bandwidth and carry fat margins."

Hyers warns that "some mobile operators are concerned about turning over control of their programming to a third party, because they rely on differentiated content to attract subscribers." He also questions whether "FLO can be deployed in a full commercial service by October 2006" and predicts "tough competition from the other systems, plus challenges in getting spectrum, in other countries."

In-Stat analyst Clint Wheelock concurs with Hyers. "I think it's going to be a rough road outside the U.S.," he said.

It might be a rough road in the U.S. as well considering consumers will have to purchase new FLO-enabled handsets...

via InfoWorld Nederland