Why is ICO involved in the Qualcomm-MSV chipset deal?

Posted in ICO/DBSD, LightSquared at 10:37 pm by timfarrar

The biggest surprise of the three-way chipset deal announced by Qualcomm, MSV and ICO on Monday was ICO’s involvement, given its insistence last year that it did not intend to develop a handheld satellite phone and that it would focus instead on its Mobile Interactive Multimedia (MIM) service. It now appears that by incorporating support for ICO’s S-band frequencies into Qualcomm’s mass-market chipsets, ICO may be setting the stage for a handheld product launch.

Whether this comes from a lack of confidence in MIM, or simply a desire to address additional segments of the MSS market is hard to discern, but we have been skeptical about the market appeal of mobile video in cars (it seems likely to attract a much smaller number of subscribers than satellite radio for example), and it seems to us that ICO has placed more emphasis on the navigation and roadside assistance components of the MIM package in recent months. We also remain concerned about whether the multiple car antennas needed for the MIM video service will be acceptable to end users and car manufacturers alike (ICO’s trial car has four separate diversity antennas, although it hopes to reduce this to only two antennas in the production version, subject to the results of its technical trials later this year).

Also remarkable is the turnaround from MSV and ICO’s earlier alignment with HNS for development of their network infrastructure. Who would have predicted a year ago that we would see Globalstar aligned with HNS and MSV and ICO aligned with Qualcomm?

Note: In response to our perspectives above, ICO informed us that they have not placed more emphasis on navigation and roadside assistance in recent months, and that their alpha trials along with recent additions of video content, their three year exclusive agreement with Delphi for DVB-SH in North America and their demonstrations in Las Vegas earlier in the year “represent a fairly significant ongoing commitment to mobile video”. The agreement with Qualcomm “brings both economies of scale for the development of chipsets that are S-band capable, as well as capability for the interactivity requirements of the ICO mim service offering”. ICO’s comments appear to leave open the question of whether ICO will ultimately decide to launch a handheld MSS phone, which the Qualcomm chipsets could certainly enable, since they will be compatible with the handheld services planned by MSV.

1 Comment »

  1. TMF Associates MSS blog » ICO awarded ~$707M in Boeing lawsuit said,

    November 13, 2008 at 6:48 am

    [...] eventually decide to acquire MSS operators such as ICO to get hold of their spectrum, perhaps revisiting the handheld MSS market in the meantime. It now seems probable that ICO will be able to outlast TerreStar and thus it could [...]

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