Ericsson: LTE Broadcast will soon play starring role in TV distribution

LTE Broadcast is primed to help service providers efficiently offer consumers personalized mobile TV, according to Joerg Huschke, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) master researcher.

"We believe LTE will play a major role in TV distribution in the near future. LTE can give service providers the flexibility to alter between broadcast and unicast, depending on how many people want to watch at a particular time," wrote Huschke in a recent entry on the Ericsson Research blog.  

Based upon evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS) and available commercially beginning with 3GPP Release 9, LTE Broadcast (also called LTE Multicast) replaces clunky unicast content delivery with a single-frequency network broadcast mode that can send the same content to mass audiences within a specific area.

"The system is highly adaptive and uses broadcast only during times and in areas where the interest in the content is sufficiently high. Ericsson is convinced that such flexibility is key for efficient TV distribution," Huschke said.

He noted that in the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, the company forecasts that annual video traffic in mobile networks will grow some 55 percent by 2019. This trend is occurring as terrestrial TV continues losing market share to direct-to-home (DTH) TV, cable and fixed broadband.

Interestingly, it appears LTE Broadcast could either supplement, or, alternatively, pose a widely available challenge to, traditional terrestrial TV because LTE Broadcast is not necessarily restricted to customers of a particular cellular provider.

As Huschke observed, because eMBMS does not make use of LTE-specific ciphering, it is possible to receive LTE Broadcast services without having a SIM card if the service is supported by a device. "This facilitates anonymous and free-to-air reception," he said.

In addition, LTE-based technology could find a role in next-generation broadcast standards. For example, in North America, the Advanced Television Standardization Committee (ATSC) is working on ATSC 3.0, a future standard that aims to take advantage of advanced video and audio coding techniques to bring more services to viewers. Ericsson Research and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) have jointly outlined LTE-based solutions in response to a call for proposals for the ATSC3.0 standard, Huschke said.

"We believe that an optimal LTE Broadcast solution for video distribution addressing all layers is to combine eMBMS with DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming using HTTP) and HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec, ITU-T H.265)," Huschke said.

Top U.S. mobile operators are exploring eMBMS. In a spring 2014 FCC filing, AT&T (NYSE:T) reiterated that it was exploring the possibility of offering LTE Broadcast using the eMBMS standard but did not confirm that it would launch a service.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) has already conducted public tests of eMBMS. In May, it worked with Ericsson on a live broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 car race. The broadcast ran over Verizon's commercial LTE network and incorporated video of the race as well as in-car footage and footage from cameras installed around the track.

For more:
- see this Ericsson Research blog entry

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