updated 08:10 am EST, Mon December 20, 2010
ATT buys FLO TV spectrum to bolster 4G
AT&T on Monday confirmed expectations and said it would buy Qualcomm's FLO TV spectrum. The carrier will spend $1.93 billion to buy airwaves in the lower 700MHz range to bolster AT&T's 4G download speeds in key areas, 12MHz of which focuses on major cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Another 6MHz covers a wider swath of the US and about 230 million potential users.
The deal should close sometime during the second half of 2011, although AT&T has said its LTE-based 4G network should go live sometime roughly in mid-2011.
The move confirms the end of Qualcomm's short-lived mobile TV subscription service and narrows down the spring shutdown window to March 2011. It had tried to push the digital broadcast service through both AT&T and Verizon at rates of $12 or more per month but had poor adoption. Critics have usually pointed both to a lack of viable content as well as an undesirable mix of devices, whose best offering was the Windows Mobile 6-based HTC Imagio.
Simultaneous with though not directly connected to the deal, Qualcomm has agreed to build in carrier aggregation for its chipsets. The technique bonds together more than one cell site connection and increases the potential bandwidth, particularly for download speeds. LTE theoretically reaches up to 100Mbps, although Verizon's single-carrier network typically gets between 5-12Mbps in real conditions.