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Is LTE Broadcast ready to go on air?

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LTE? evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service? LTE Broadcast?

Mobile companies and operators gathered at the 2015 Mobile World Congress to showcase the latest in LTE multi-casting service or evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service.

Known more prosaically as eMBMS (or evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service), the LTE multi-casting service was demonstrated by a group of companies that came together under the auspices of show organisers GSMA (Groupe Spciale Mobile Association). Participants represented an excellent mix of the many companies now touting this iteration of LTE as an efficient system for delivering multimedia content and software to multiple users' handsets.

This latest demonstration suggests the time may be right for multi-casting, now that LTE is capable of the necessary bandwidth and the latest screens have sufficient size and quality to display compelling video.

The technology uses HEVC/H.265 (high efficiency video coding) to halve the required bandwidth and MPEG DASH (dynamic adaptive streaming over HTTP) to simplify the delivery of video to mobile devices.

Others are more sceptical of both the technology and, indeed, the whole business case for mobile broadcast. And rightly so! For we have of course been here on too many painful and disappointing occasions. Anybody remember DVB-H, or the Qualcomm-inspired MediaFlo, or even the original MBMS without the extra letter, which back in 2006 was part of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) specification.

In most cases, the few users who bothered participating in small and large scale trials had to buy special "terminals" based on proprietary chipsets to watch limited content on their mobiles, and the whole story was unconvincing. The advent of YouTube did not help.

The participants in the MWC15 demosincluding companies such as Ericsson, Qualcomm (now firmly riding on LTE Broadcast) and Intel, collaborating with operators such as Verizon, Telstra, KPN and SingTel, as well as Facebook and INDYCARhighlighted not only the quality of the transmission, but were touting the multiple benefits of multi-cast delivery and other use cases and functions, notably software updates but also including services such as location based apps, emergency alerts and real-time traffic updates.

This time around, the ecosystem is based on standardised technology, so carriers will be able to use their existing infrastructure and spectrum through hardware upgrades for broadcast, and future generations of radio chip sets will immediately support the feature.

For operators, the compelling benefit of LTE Broadcast will be dynamic resource allocation and the capability to offload video traffic during live sports events such as the Olympics or a royal wedding and other hugely popular events, or the sudden availability of a viral video. Deploying LTE Broadcast, they will be able to deliver such content to theoretically unlimited numbers of viewers. The technology can allocate or set up a single frequency within a base station, which, in turn, can be repeated in other base stations.

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