Four leading network operators have formed an alliance to encourage support for broadcast services over fourth generation mobile networks. Verizon, Telstra, kt and EE, which represent more than 200 million mobile subscribers, founded the LTE-Broadcast Alliance, announced at the TV Connect event in London.
LTE-B, also known as evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service or eMBMS, enables a mobile operator to send a single stream of data to all mobile users in one area, as opposed to sending an individual stream to each user.
As well as supporting peak-time video viewing on mobile networks, LTE-B has other potential applications.
Push notifications, including over-the-air device updates, weather warnings, critical communications for public safety, enterprise group communication, or multimedia marketing messages can be delivered more efficiently.
There is also the potential to provide a service platform to connect the internet of things, communicating to billions of devices at the same time.
Verizon is leading the way in the United States with commercially deployed LTE-B service across its nationwide 4G LTE network.
In the UK, EE trialled the technology at the 2015 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, in partnership with the BBC, allowing broadcast of multiple camera angles and replays in high definition to mobile devices in the stadium.
In Australia, Telstra delivered the world’s first stadium broadcast using LTE-B and demonstrated the technology again at the NRL Grand Final in October 2015.
In South Korea, kt became the first operator in the world to launch a commercial LTE-B service in January 2014. The kt service covers seven baseball stadiums and major subway lines of Seoul and Busan.
Parissa Pandkhou, the director of product development at Verizon, said:
“Since 2012, Verizon has been dedicated to LTE-B, and in 2015 achieved commercial availability across our entire 4G LTE network. The LTE-B Alliance will help establish and expand the benefits of the service to other technology segments, increase device penetration, and unearth even more use cases for eMBMS.”
Matt Stagg, the head of video strategy at EE, now part of BT, said: “Initially we focused our LTE-B efforts on the benefits for live and linear video, and we will launch a live service in 2017. Now, as part of the LTE-B Alliance, we’ll be focused on developing use cases for critical communications services, Internet of Things, and a 5G future. The Alliance will provide awareness of the importance of this technology, and ensure that the benefits can be realised as soon as possible.”
The alliance is inviting other mobile network operators, device manufacturers and chipset makers to join.
So far, mobile operators, perhaps chastened by previous efforts to deliver broadcast services to mobile devices, have held back from promoting the potential of their networks to deliver broadcast channels.
They appear intent on developing business models and incremental revenue opportunities, rather than embracing the opportunity to broadcast video services.
For their part, most broadcasters appear equally uninterested in exploring such an approach.
The primary goal of the alliance is to encourage global support for LTE-Broadcast services from all device makers. That will no doubt include Apple, which does not currently support LTE-B in its iPhones.