LTE-B proponents encouraged by content providers: report

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Sporting events remain a prime use case for LTE-B.

Encouraged by players in the content space, the head of the U.K. operator EE’s head of mobile video says it’s not a question of if but when LTE Broadcast (LTE-B) gets rolled out.

In an exclusive interview with Mobile World Live, the EE’s Matt Stagg said one of the takeaways from the recent LTE-B Forum at Mobile World Congress 2017 was the technology is well developed and now it’s a case of increasing the device density and support from OEMs to enable middleware and get it working.   

“We had a couple of content providers as well who were saying we need this technology because we can augment the customer experience making use of this, so I think there’s a drive from both ends now,” he said. Players in the TV and video ecosystem are starting to say they have ideas on how to use it and that’s a massive change in terms of where LTE-B has come, he added.

EE was one of the founding members of the LTE-Broadcast Alliance, which launched last April, along with Verizon, Telstra and kt. Earlier this year, the alliance pointed to a white paper that covers lessons learned from trials and early deployments around the world and includes examples like Verizon’s Indycar app, which has been commercially available in the U.S. since April 2016. 

Beyond that, LTE-B hasn’t gained a huge amount of traction in the U.S. AT&T conducted a demo of LTE-B at a national college football playoff game in 2015, but at last year’s Mobile World Congress, AT&T SVP of wireless network architecture and design Tom Keathley told FierceWireless that while the operator continued to test the technology, he believed the business case still had not been proven. At the same conference, a Verizon executive said delivering video over LTE-broadcast so far had not been a big revenue generator for the operator. 

RELATED: AT&T isn't as keen on LTE-B as Verizon

Also known as evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS), LTE-B 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. Fans say LTE-B can ensure a great customer experience even in areas of highest demands. Sports arenas or stadiums are often cited as ideal venues for delivering LTE-B services—but is hasn’t always been clear how much, if anything, consumers are willing to pay for such services.

In the interview with Mobile World Live, Stagg reaffirmed that one of the driving forces for LTE-B is sports events, which people tend to view live, and ideally they’ll be in a stadium or in front of a big screen but if they’re not, they’re watching it on mobile and that drives huge demands in particular areas. Without LTE-B, which is a very efficient use of spectrum, the video quality will not be as good.

Ericsson and Australia's Telstra announced at MWC 17 that they will be launching an LTE-B network across the country by 2018 using 3GPP standards. Telstra said its LTE-B offering will be launched in 2017, enabled via existing Telstra Media services, as well as a 24 x 7 linear streaming channel, initially available on select Samsung devices.