Qualcomm Ends Sales of Portable Sets for Mobile TV

Published October 6, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — It looks as if U.S. consumers just aren't that interested in getting TV on their phones and other mobile devices.

Wireless technology developer Qualcomm Inc. is pulling back on its efforts to sell mobile TV service under the FLO TV brand. It is ending sales of its standalone, battery-powered portable TV sets on Wednesday. It's also looking at whether to shut down the service for all users, which would include AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers with certain phones.

Qualcomm's announcement late Tuesday that it's suspending sales is another nail in the coffin for mobile TV, at least in its subscription-based incarnation. FLO TV customers pay $9 per month and up for a package of 10 to 15 live TV stations. The company has previously said that it's looking at options for the FLO TV network, which could include selling it, or revamping it for some other type of service aimed at cell phones. The FLO TV service launched in 2007.

Qualcomm said it will continue to provide service for its 3.5-inch Personal Television until spring. The units sold for $250, and Qualcomm said it would issue refunds as appropriate. It didn't say when service for phones might be shut down. The phones are still on sale through AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Qualcomm, which is based in San Diego, said there will be some layoffs from its FLO TV unit, but didn't say how many.

News of the suspension of sales was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Separately, TV stations have started to broadcast their own signals in a format intended for cell phones. However, there are currently no devices on the market that can pick up those broadcasts. Phone manufacturers and wireless carriers haven't been very interested in including receivers in their products, and consumers appear to be focused on getting smart phones with data service rather than TV.

Regular TV broadcasts, the kind picked up by TV sets through antennas, can't be picked up reliably by small, mobile devices such as cell phones.

Written by PETER SVENSSON,AP Technology Writer

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