Qualcomm hints strongly at Flo TV switch-off

US vendor Qualcomm has given the strongest indication yet that it is set to call time on its Flo TV mobile TV service. The firm has announced that it is to suspend direct to consumer sales of service and devices immediately, and has committed to maintaining service for existing D2C customers only until spring 2011. The firm said that it would offer refunds to users “in the event of a discontinuance of service”, suggesting that this is the probable outcome, and conceded that it was expecting to have to make “some layoffs”.

Qualcomm launched its D2C service, which requires users to buy a portable media player and take out a contract with Flo TV, in 2009. The firm said that, for the time being, services offered through carrier partners AT&T and Verizon Wireless would be unaffected.

It is no secret that Qualcomm has been unhappy with the commercial performance of its Flo TV service for some time. In late June this year, Flo TV president Bill Stone told  he was “not happy with the current subscriber numbers. They’re not where they need to be.”

He added that the firm was seeking overseas deployments of the technology and that its ongoing operation in the US was dependent on a degree of international success. Trials have been undertaken with British satellite TV broadcaster BSkyB and Japanese carrier KDDI but there have been no indications as yet that they could result in commercial services.

But Qualcomm still has hopes that the Media Flo network on which the TV service is based could have a role to play. The firm may try and position the network as a useful supplement to cellular systems for the transmission of mobile data, particularly for data-centric devices such as tablets.

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