One technology we’re likely to hear more and more about over the next few months is LTE Broadcast, which aims to enhance the quality and reduce the cost to mobile operators of delivering multimedia content to their customers. Just today there were a couple of announcements in this area. Ericsson announced a product supporting LTE Broadcast and said Verizon Wireless will use the technology for entertainment and sporting events. Meanwhile chip-maker Sequans and Alcatel-Lucent said they would work together on LTE Broadcast.
LTE Advanced is part of a 3GPP standard known as evolved multimedia broadcast multicast service or eMBMS. As Ericsson explains in a useful white paper titled “LTE Broadcast: A Revenue Enabler in the Mobile Media Era,” LTE Broadcast is a single-frequency network that service providers can dynamically assign to just a few cellsites or across a large number of cellsites throughout an entire country. A portion of each cellsite is assigned to the service, and all the cellsites send the same data during exactly the same radio time slot.
Using this approach, network operators minimize the bandwidth required when multiple customers access the same content. Traditionally in that scenario each user would receive a dedicated stream, potentially increasing network congestion.
“LTE Broadcast offers the greatest benefits in the delivery of content demanded by mass audiences,” writes Ericsson in the white paper. “The technology starts to provide network-capacity advantages over unicast in a cell with as few as one to four concurrent users.”
The white paper notes that LTE Broadcast requires no separate chipset on end user devices and can use common middleware.
In addition to eMBMS, Ericsson said its LTE Broadcast offering supports MPEG DASH for adaptive streaming and high-efficiency video coding (HEVC) which aims to reduce the bandwidth required to transport video content in half compared to today’s implementations based on MPLEG-4 AVC.
Verizon offers some hints about what its LTE Broadcast plans might entail in a couple of recent company blog posts.
One of the posts, penned by a Qualcomm executive, notes that with LTE Broadcast “users will be able to access multiple camera angles, feeds and stats from live broadcast video directly on their smartphone or other wireless device with consistent, reliable quality.”
The other post, penned by a Verizon corporate communications director, notes that “LTE Broadcast could allow students on satellite campuses to see a lecture from a star professor, transforming higher education and making it available to more people.”
In addition, the post notes that municipal governments could use the technology to reach all of the citizens in a specific geographic area with targeted messages.
The Sequans/Alcatel-Lucent release is a brief one, noting that the companies have successfully completed interoperability testing between Alcatel-Lucent’s LTE equipment and Sequans eMBMS-capable LTE chipsets.
The announcement also references another potential application for LTE Broadcast – “data offloading (for example, to push software updates.)”