Verizon, EE, Telstra, kt form LTE-B Alliance; AT&T plans uncertain
Verizon has announced the formation of the LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B) Alliance alongside EE in the UK, South Korean operator KT, and Telstra in Australia. The international carriers, spanning four different continents and boasting over 200m mobile subscribers, aim to make LTE-B available in all top- and mid-tier devices launched in 2017.
LTE-B technology, or evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS), supports multicast (one video stream sent to multiple receivers), which benefits operators by freeing up precious bandwidth compared to one-to-one unicast. Unicast transmission will never be economic for popular linear broadcast services, so the real battle will be between mobile operators and broadcasters for control of spectrum for multicast video.
The four alliance members have all successfully tested LTE-B; KT was the first operator in the world to deploy the technology in 2014, and Verizon has since followed suit, branding it as LTE-Multicast.
The focus of the technology so far has been mainly on live events, with Verizon deploying it at the Super Bowl and auto racing events – for those with compatible devices and the associated app. But the US carrier says the potential of LTE-B is not limited to sporting events, and intends to use it to push public safety warnings and weather updates, as well as IoT applications such as the personalization of connected digital signage.
Rival US operator AT&T owns spectrum which was previously used for Qualcomm’s failed mobile TV platform, MediaFLO, and so has the potential for scale implementation of live TV channels using LTE-B. AT&T had committed to LTE-B, but has recently gone quiet on it, having failed to roll out services in 2015 as expected.
Both AT&T and Verizon have openly admitted that LTE-B hasn’t been a huge cash generator so far, which is why Verizon is looking at applying it to machine-to-machine use cases – with the potential to provide a more reliable income. At the CTIA conference last year, Verizon demonstrated the transmission of video advertisements to a fleet of taxis. The demo saw video content from Verizon’s LTE-B system transmitted to a D-Link HDMI-capable dongle running software from Quickplay.
AT&T has the potential to play a trump card over Verizon if it can harness LTE, WiFi and LTE-B to create a credible video experience around content already contracted to DirecTV, which can be extended to mobile.
Verizon’s Go90 OTT service launched in September 2015, and in December we reported that the US operator had been keen to ensure that Go90 can embrace WiFi as well, in places where LTE is not available, which is why it has worked with Expway and LTE chipmaker Sequans to enable delivery of LTE-B services to an LTE/WiFi router. This means all devices in range of the WiFi router can receive LTE broadcast streams.
In early March, Turkish mobile operator Turkcell successfully demonstrated LTE-B technology during a basketball game, in partnership with Ericsson. Members of the press were able to watch HD video streams from four different angles on Turkcell’s 4.5G test network. The MNO said it planned to deploy 4.5G in 81 Turkish cities as of April this year, but any news on the success of this project has yet to be released.
Parissa Pandkhou, director of product development, corporate technology at Verizon, said: “Our goal from this alliance is to develop new business models, educate the market about what the service can do and lead the technology.” She added: “Since 2012, Verizon has been dedicated to LTE-B and in 2015 achieved commercial availability across our entire 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.”