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Five minutes with…Gina Lombardi

MediaFLO USA launched its broadcast mobile television service with Verizon Wireless earlier this month. Virtually everyone in the industry is wondering if the service will take off, and questions run the field as to the profitability of the service and where architects of the technology envision it going over the next couple years. RCR Wireless News sat down with MediaFLO President Gina Lombardi on the exhibit floor at CTIA Wireless 2007 to pose just some of those burning questions. Here is an edited version of that conversation.

What do you see as a sort of watershed event that will generate more popular interest in mobile TV?
Actually we’re starting to hear stories from the actual retail channel about who’s buying handsets. We’re live in Minneapolis and it’s a little cold up there right now. So we heard that a gentleman went into the store and saw the display for mobile TV and said, ‘Oh, what is this?’ And he went through the sales process and he said, ‘I need to buy this, I can watch television while I’m ice fishing .’ So people are thinking about places where they will use it. And so he’s sitting there waiting for a fish, he might as well be watching television. .
People are multi-tasking more and more and so I think that’s where people are saying, ‘Hey, this totally fits into my lifestyle,’ and this is how it’s going to. I think that’s really what is going to be more and more interesting.

How many channels do you envision launching on MediaFLO at full strength?
The capability of the system is 20 video channels and 10 audio channels. What we’re going to do is add a few channels hopefully every quarter. . We need to be cognizant of the pricing to the consumer and how much the consumer will pay per month for mobile TV. And if it’s the right content lineup, then we think the consumers have told us in our research they will pay. But we need to make sure we bundle things in the correct way, so maybe we bundle things in an entertainment fashion and in a sports fashion.

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam told RCR Wireless News last week that if mobile TV becomes widely adopted and proves successful, the carrier might consider launching its own network or bringing the service into its core network. Are you concerned about things moving in that direction or would you see it as further validation of the service?
I read that too, what does that mean?
We think the service is going to be popular. I mean Qualcomm wouldn’t have spent $800 million if they didn’t think so. . A lot of times when Qualcomm comes up with technologies it takes a long time for the carriers to adopt it because they may be doing several different things in parallel and it’s hard to adopt new services. So, what we thought at Qualcomm is, ‘Hey, why don’t we set up a subsidiary called MediaFLO USA and let’s get some spectrum and let’s bring the content together, let’s build out a network and let’s get people going.’ Because we saw in Asia that they were doing mobile TV and we were seeing that it’s a very interesting trend.
And this network is designed for multimedia, live, streaming broadcast quality and so creating a service around that is what we tried to do so that it was very simple for the carriers to adopt. They didn’t have to spend the network cost; they didn’t have to worry about putting the service together. . We wanted to get the technology out there quickly and so that’s what we decided to do. I didn’t quite understand what the comments meant, but it’s definitely a validation it’s going to be successful. -By


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