Verizon not the only carrier eyeing LTE Broadcast

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A top executive confirmed Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is working to deliver multicast video to customers using LTE Broadcast, a technology other mobile operators including Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) are reportedly starting to consider.

Last week, Verizon Communications Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam said during a keynote at the 2013 International CES that the company's wireless unit is aiming to broadcast video over its LTE network, perhaps by early 2014. McAdam told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was onstage with him, "Using LTE...we'd love to broadcast the Super Bowl in the 2014 time frame," according to Computerworld.

Regarding McAdam's comment, Verizon spokeswoman Debi Lewis told FierceBroadbandWireless, "I think the Super Bowl reference is just an example of a scenario for this, nothing specific."

But in a blog post on Verizon Wireless' website, Joe Constantine, vice president and CTO at Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), said Verizon is using Ericsson's evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (eMBMS) technology "to make video a winning experience during a major event," and he cited a football stadium with "100,000 spectators, 100,000 perspectives and 100,000 different video experiences on thousands of different devices."

Constantine said LTE Broadcast will enable wireless customers to access multiple camera angles, feeds and stats from live broadcast video, directly on their smartphone or other wireless device.

In November at the LTE North America conference, Clearwire CTO John Saw said that the operator is eyeing both broadcast and unicast for video delivery and is looking forward to advanced eMBMS features that will be included in 3GPP Release 12, according to telecoms.com. That release is slated for completion in June 2014.

In addition, other mobile operators are eyeing LTE Broadcast as a capability to be deployed after they get their initial LTE networks up and running rather than as part of their initial service, said iGR Research, which just issued a white paper on the technology

The research firm said none of the operators interviewed for its white paper reported firm LTE Broadcast implementation plans. It is likely that Verizon will be a pioneer in LTE Broadcast, particularly given that the operator has actually been talking about the capability for more than two years.

Verizon demonstrated LTE Broadcast at CES in collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), which provided prototype handheld solutions, said Lewis in her own blog post. Companies such as MobiTV, Media Excel and Thomson Video Networks helped create the application and content.

Multichannel News noted McAdam did not mention whether Verizon Wireless' LTE Broadcast efforts might be connected to the marketing and joint development agreements the company has with cable operators Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks. Those partnerships were formed via Verizon's $3.9 billion purchase of nationwide AWS spectrum from the cable operators in a deal finally approved by regulators last summer.

Broadcast LTE, or eMBMS, was originally defined in Release 8 and 9 of the 3GPP standards and has been enhanced in Releases 10 and 11, noted iGR.

"While there are some current concerns and issues, on balance, the [mobile network operators] appear to see the fact that the LTE Broadcast ecosystem is already defined, supported and growing as a major benefit," said iGR.

LTE Broadcast can be a useful tool for helping network operators increase the capacity of their networks, said Iain Gillott, iGR's president and founder.

LTE Broadcast could potentially offload 12.5 percent of the video data traffic from unicast overall and 15 percent during peak hours in 2016 if deployed across a metro market, said Gillott. The service could also offload 30 percent of the total mobile data network traffic attributed to audio overall and 45 percent during peak hours in 2016. Ultimately, LTE Broadcast could offload up to 11.5 percent of the total daily demand per subscriber and 14.7 percent during the peak hours.

"For the U.S. mobile operators, the amount of network capacity built in 2016 could be reduced by 9.8 percent if LTE Broadcast were deployed, equivalent to an overall potential saving of $4.21 billion," said iGR. The firm said large U.S. operators could see savings of $60 [million] to $100 million in 2016 alone from full deployment of LTE Broadcast.

Not only can LTE Broadcast distribute content such as live events and media, it can also be used for background file and software delivery and group information distribution. Unforeseen revenue streams might also be enabled by LTE Broadcast, as occurred with mobile broadband, said iGR.

According to the firm, benefits of LTE Broadcast from the mobile operator's perspective include the fact that the service requires no changes to consumer devices with compatible chipsets and middleware. Further, no hardware changes are required to the LTE RAN.

But iGR said operators are concerned that benefits of the LTE Broadcast business case are not yet quantified, and they are undecided about how LTE Broadcast should be deployed. Further, the technology would require changes to backend systems for device software and firmware updates.

For more:
- see this Verizon blog post and this post
- see this Multichannel News article
- see this Computerworld article
- see this AnandTech article
- see this GigaOM article
- see this iGR release

Related articles:
FCC approves Verizon's $3.9B AWS purchase, T-Mobile spectrum swap
Verizon's cable deal transforms AWS into a crucial LTE band
Making the case for LTE Broadcast and Dyle mobile TV
Huawei targets LTE Broadcast, Wi-Fi backhaul
Samsung boosts Dyle mobile TV, tests eMBMS