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

While Verizon (NYSE: VZ) boasts how it has deployed LTE Broadcast (LTE-B) technology throughout its LTE footprint, its biggest rival, AT&T (NYSE: T), isn't so gung-ho about it.

A high-level AT&T executive revealed a couple years ago that AT&T planned to deploy LTE-B in 2015, but AT&T isn't talking about that anymore. "As a flexible and efficient technology, we continue to consider use cases and business models for LTE Broadcast, but at this time we do not have any specific deployment details to share," the company said in response to a FierceWirelessTech inquiry last week.

Company executives have said that as a general rule, the company isn't going to pursue or deploy technology unless it can make a good business case for it. Indeed, at Mobile World Congress 2016, AT&T SVP of wireless network architecture and design Tom Keathley told FierceWireless that while the operator continues to test the technology, he believes the business case still has 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. 

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 it's not clear how much, if anything, consumers are willing to pay for such services.

Verizon was among four mobile network operators globally that last week announced the launch of the LTE-Broadcast Alliance, with the goal of increasing global device support for LTE-B services. Primarily, they want to make sure LTE-B is available in every top- and mid-tier device launched in 2017. EE of the UK, Telstra of Australia and South Korea's kt are also part of the effort. In January 2014, kt became the first operator in the world to launch a commercial LTE-B service.

Last year during a collegiate national championship football game that pitted the University of Oregon against Ohio State (we conveniently don't remember who won), AT&T conducted its first live demonstration of LTE-B, delivering replays and video shot from different camera angles to devices. In addition, the data stream delivered sports stats and trivia. Partners Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), ESPN, Samsung and MobiTV were part of that effort to deliver two channels of streaming video and one channel of data to 40 LTE-broadcast enabled Samsung Galaxy Note 3 devices. The speed of the streams was about 1 Mbps.

Verizon also has done public demonstrations, including at Indy car events and at an event in a tent erected in Manhattan's Bryant Park in New York City prior to the 2014 Super Bowl. The company's technology partners included Alcatel-Lucent, Qualcomm, Samsung, MobiTV and Sequans. During the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam famously generated headlines when he publicly discussed his desire to use LTE Multicast to deliver video services to Verizon's customers during 2014's Super Bowl, but that didn't happen.

Related articles:
Verizon, Telstra, kt and EE launch LTE-Broadcast Alliance
AT&T teams with ESPN, Ericsson to deliver LTE broadcast at college championship game
AT&T to launch LTE Multicast in 2015
ATIS releases eMBMS-based standard for LTE Multicast