Following on its announcement last summer to shut down its FLO TV venture, Qualcomm just sold its lower 700 MHz D- and E-block (Channels 55 and 56) unpaired U.S. spectrum licenses (used now for FLO TV) to AT&T for $1.9 billion.

The deal is set to close sometime during the second half of 2011. As a result, Qualcomm expects to disconnect its FLO TV business and network in March 2011.

AT&T’s new purchase covers more than 300 million POPS nationwide: 12 megahertz of lower 700 MHz D- and E-block spectrum covers more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 U.S. metropolitan areas — New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco; 6 megahertz of lower 700 MHz D-block spectrum covers more than 230 million people across the rest of the country. AT&T says it will use this spectrum in its 4G plans moving forward, as supplemental downlink using carrier-aggregation technology that can deliver “substantial capacity gains by enabling unpaired spectrum to be used in conjunction with paired spectrum,” it adds. The carrier expects to begin deploying this spectrum once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed.

“This is a positive outcome for Qualcomm and our stakeholders,” commented Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm, in a statement earlier today. “Carrier aggregation, supplemental downlink and LTE multicast technologies are an exciting evolution of next-generation wireless systems to economically support increasing consumer demand for mobile TV and other rich media content. We will continue to drive the development and delivery of these new capabilities, which build on our technology leadership and deep experience with 3G, 4G and broadcast technologies.”

Qualcomm is integrating carrier aggregation technology into its chipset roadmap to enable supplemental downlink and intends to market the technology globally. The San Diego-based company also plans to parlay its broadcast experience to develop LTE multicast technologies that address high-bandwidth video and other multimedia content.

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