Verizon's LTE Multicast not quite ready for Super Bowl kickoff

Tammy Parker, FierceWirelessTech

When the Denver Broncos won their final playoff game two weeks ago, I actually told my boyfriend something to the effect of, "If we get tickets to the Super Bowl, we'll not only get to see the Broncos play, but we'll get to check out Verizon Wireless' LTE Broadcast service that they've been planning for the big game."

Clearly I've been working too much.

Well, we didn't get Super Bowl tickets, and neither did a lot of other Broncos or Seahawks fans. I also didn't get to see LTE Broadcast in action during Verizon's big press shindig Wednesday at Manhattan's Bryant Park and neither will fans in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

While Verizon has been demonstrating LTE Broadcast (or LTE Multicast as the carrier prefers to call it) this week in a 15,000-square-foot tent called the Verizon Power House, the service won't be providing multiple video streams of Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defense or close ups of John Elway's enormous teeth for those braving the cold Sunday in East Rutherford. (However, FierceCable Editor Steve Donohue did get to check out Verizon's LTE Multicast press event. Click here for his article.)

As you might recall, during the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Lowell McAdam, chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, 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. "Using LTE... we'd love to broadcast the Super Bowl in the 2014 time frame," he said.

I had hoped that based on McAdam's statement, come February 2014 Verizon would be offering at least a trial service within MetLife Stadium rather than doing a mere technology demo in an overgrown white tent in Manhattan. I suspect McAdam has been wishing for that too. After all, one of the most cited use cases for LTE Broadcast/Multicast is delivering multiple camera angles of an event and related video content to attendees at that very event.

Admittedly, the carrier's spokeswoman Debi Lewis told me a year ago that McAdam wasn't making any specific service predictions with his CES comment. "I think the Super Bowl reference is just an example of a scenario for this, nothing specific," she said at the time. But I had my fingers crossed nonetheless.

Fast forward to 2014, though there will be no LTE Multicast to entertain the NFL faithful attending this week's big game, Verizon is clearly gearing up for an imminent launch of the service, which is based upon evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS) technology. That would be in line with the carrier's earlier statements that it intends to flip the switch on the service sometime this year, though other details (where, for how much, on which devices) have not been brought to light.

South Korean operator KT earlier this week commercially launched its eMBMS offering, which can be accessed by subscribers using the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Verizon's demo also used modified Samsung Galaxy Note 3 tablets, but the carrier indicated that no smartphone or tablet manufacturer has deployed commercial devices that can support broadcast programming delivered through Verizon's broadband wireless network.

Since I'm stuck in Colorado for the duration, on Sunday I'll be plopped down in a cozy, warm living room watching Super Bowl XLVIII, the accompanying bizarre TV commercials as well as Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl. (Duchess wants to see the American Eskimo Dog in this year's lineup.)

But I just know that late Sunday night I'll drift off to sleep with visions dancing in my head of yet-to-be introduced portable devices streaming LTE Multicast videos.--Tammy