Verizon talking to TV manufacturers about supporting LTE Multicast programming

NEW YORK--In addition to developing new mobile devices capable of delivering live video using LTE Multicast technology, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is talking to consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers about integrating LTE Multicast with connected TV devices, a top Verizon executive said Wednesday.

Click here for some pictures of LTE Multicast in action.

"We have pretty wide and varied discussions with the CE guys, TV consoles, set-top boxes and others," Shawn Strickland, vice president for video in Verizon's video group, said at an event here Wednesday where Verizon showed a live feed of NFL Network displayed on smartphones, tablets and large monitors. "It's really looking at the opportunities and benefits, and how it fits on the roadmap," Strickland added.

In January 2013, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said that Verizon Wireless planned to use its LTE network to broadcast the 2014 Super Bowl. Verizon demonstrated live NFL Network programming on Samsung Galaxy Note 3 tablets that it modified to support LTE Multicast, but no smartphone or tablet manufacturer has deployed devices that can support broadcast programming delivered through its broadband wireless network.

LTE Multicast could eventually allow Verizon Wireless customers to access multiple camera angles from a live event. In the NFL demo Verizon ran on Wednesday, it offered users the ability to access four video channels. In addition to the live NFL Network broadcast, it showed the 2013 Super Bowl on a second channel, and it dedicated two channels to running highlights from the recent American Football Conference Championship game.

Verizon ran the LTE Multicast demonstration inside a large white tent that it erected in Manhattan's Bryant Park. It opened the "Verizon Power House" exhibit up to the public Wednesday afternoon and is using the demonstrations to educate consumers about LTE Multicast.

Verizon didn't announce plans to launch new smartphones or tablets that will support LTE Multicast. In November, Verizon introduced a $250, 7-inch tablet called Ellipsis, which it said would be the first in a new family of mobile devices that will use its brand. While Verizon's first Ellipsis device doesn't support LTE Multicast, executives hinted that new devices Verizon will introduce later this year will support LTE Multicast, which requires new computer chips and middleware.

"We're taking a look at our family of devices and other OEMs. There will be more news coming out later this year," said Brian Higgins, VP of mobile Internet services for Verizon's product group.

In addition to Samsung, Verizon said technology partners it worked with on the LTE Multicast demonstration included Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ: ALU) and 4G chip manufacturer Sequans. Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) provided the middleware to support LTE Multicast, and MobiTV built an app that allowed Verizon to display NFL Network programming. Verizon said it also worked with a video encoding technology vendor that it did not name.

Higgins said that Verizon is also working to upgrade its 4G cell sites nationwide to support LTE multicast. "We're ahead of the game, making sure that we can support it this year," Higgins said.

Last week, Verizon announced that it agreed to acquire Intel's OnCue platform and the cloud TV technology that the chip giant had hoped to use to launch a virtual pay TV service.

Verizon could be positioning itself to use LTE Multicast to broadcast live TV programming to wireless customers. When Verizon announced the OnCue deal, the company said that it expected to integrate "IP-based TV services with FiOS video," and that it subscribers would also benefit from "interactivity and cross-screen ease of use--integrated with the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network."

Strickland said in an interview that he couldn't detail how Verizon may integrate the OnCue technology, noting that the Intel deal hasn't yet closed. "But I would say, as we look at all of our platforms, we want to drive to a common IP platform. So when you look at these individual applications, the time to market required for any individual app will be much faster," he added.

Verizon used several Samsung Galaxy Note 3 tablets for the LTE multicast, along with what it described as a commercial-grade tablet containing chips from Sequans. It also showed the NFL Network broadcasts on several large computer monitors.

It's not clear what the use case would be for using LTE multicast technology to deliver video programming to connected TVs. One potential target market could be pay TV cord cutters, which may include consumers attracted to Verizon's low-cost Ellipsis tablet.

For more:
- see this Verizon webpage
- see this Engadget article

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