When Qualcomm sold its FloTV spectrum to AT&T last year, many assumed that was the end of the chip maker’s broadcast ambitions.
The spectrum sale, for more than $2 billion, appeared to mark the conclusion of an expensive, painful chapter for the company in which it tried and failed to build a significant business around delivering mobile television to consumers.
And while it is happy to be out of that business, Qualcomm thinks it may have a use for some of that broadcast knowledge.
It is now working with a bunch of other wireless heavyweights on a means for cellular networks to automatically broadcast content that is being used by a large number of customers.
The idea has natural appeal. For example, one can assume that when the Super Bowl is on, say, that multiple customers in a single cell tower are going to want to watch it. And, if even five customers there are tuning in, it is more efficient to broadcast a high-quality signal than it is to send even a separate low-bandwidth video stream to each device.
“All you notice as a user is the quality goes up,” said Neville Meijers, who once oversaw the Flo business and now heads Qualcomm Labs.
Broadcast could also be used to deliver software updates or even to deliver premium content overnight that a consumer could choose to view, or not, the next day.
Of course, the challenge is to create a system that can automatically detect when multiple users want the same content and automatically and gracefully shift into a broadcast mode. Qualcomm executives, though, say they have demonstrated early progress and are confident the technology will find widespread use.
For now, Qualcomm is building support for LTE Broadcast, as the technology is known, into its Snapdragon processors. At, January’s CES, Qualcomm demonstrated the technology along with Verizon and Ericsson.
In Barcelona last month, Qualcomm did another demonstration and announced plans to work with Samsung and Korea Telecom on the technology.
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