Unlike Verizon, AT&T takes its LTE Broadcast trial inside stadium

AT&T (NYSE: T) is going to conduct a live, in-stadium trial demonstration of AT&T LTE Broadcast technology. And, unlike the demonstration rival Verizon (NYSE: VZ) conducted outside the MetLife Stadium for the Super Bowl in 2014, AT&T plans to conduct this trial inside AT&T Stadium when the Ohio State Buckeyes meet the Oregon Ducks for the first-ever college football national championship in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12.

In a blog post, AT&T's senior EVP of technology and network operations, John Donovan, said AT&T is exploring LTE Broadcast for the delivery of content directly to all users with compatible devices within a designated timeframe and area. AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Stankey disclosed last summer that the operator planned to start rolling out the capabilities this year.

The technology could be used to distribute a range of content, including music, video and software to specific areas within AT&T's LTE footprint, such as a single sports stadium. AT&T has been particularly aggressive in rolling out technologies such as distributed antenna systems (DAS) and Wi-Fi to make sure venues like sports stadiums are covered, including AT&T Stadium.

"In simple terms, LTE Broadcast works by allocating a portion of wireless network resources to host specific content streams that any compatible device can access simultaneously," Donovan said via the blog. "Delivering the same content stream to multiple users, rather than delivering each user their own individual content stream, optimizes network resources."

Optimizing network resources may be more important than ever as operators try to meet consumers' seemingly insatiable demand for data. And if they can deliver specialized content, like the rebroadcast of a play to fans inside the stadium, that would seem to be an even bigger incentive for carriers to roll out the technology--if they can make money from it.

"Think of it this way: many customers attending a football game accessing venue-specific content (like live footage from a player's helmet cam) could experience lags because everyone else is trying to get that same content, at the same time, through individual data streams on their individual devices," Donovan explained. "LTE Broadcast would make available one single data stream for the helmet cam footage, available to all compatible devices in the stadium which could minimize network congestion. This trial demonstration signifies the early stages of our foray into LTE Broadcast, but we see a promising future with this technology."

Some other LTE Broadcast use cases include delivering software updates to connected cars and other devices, as well as new one-to-many commercial services for businesses. Universities could stream lectures from visiting faculty to students unable to attend, for example.

An AT&T representative told FierceWirelessTech that the operator isn't currently disclosing which vendors will be participating in the Monday demonstration.

Verizon last year named some of its LTE Multicast technology vendors, including Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Samsung, Sequans and MobiTV. In May, the operator conducted the first live test broadcast of an IndyCar Series race, incorporating video of the race as well as in-car footage and footage from cameras installed around the track.

According to a Verizon spokeswoman contacted by FierceWirelessTech, Verizon's 2015 commercial launch plan remains in place. No further details were available.

At this past Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015, Visteon debuted a connected vehicle equipped with Verizon's LTE Multicast technology, showing off how the vehicle hub communicated with an embedded automotive telematics module designed to receive firmware over the air (FOTA) updates using LTE Multicast.

Visteon says the Visteon Connected Vehicle Hub and LTE Multicast from Verizon will allow automakers to simultaneously transmit FOTA updates to vehicles in an entire fleet, manufacturing plant or region. Visteon and Verizon worked in a number of locations across the country to co-develop an end-to-end solution.

Previously, Verizon executives have touted the potential benefits of LTE Multicast. During the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Verizon Communications Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam famously discussed his desire to use LTE Multicast to deliver video services to Verizon's customers during 2014's Super Bowl, although that didn't happen. The operator did, however, conduct demos leading up to the big game.

FierceWirelessTech Editor-in-Chief Sue Marek will be at AT&T's trial in Dallas. Check back here for a full report on the trial. 

For more:
- see the AT&T blog post
- see FierceCable's story
- see this Wireless Week story

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