Light Reading

eMBMS: Revolutionary Technology or Alphabet Soup?

Aditya Kishore
4/9/2014
50%
50%

I remember writing about MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services) back in 2006, and I'm sure many people in the industry had heard about it well before then.

A 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) specification, it was designed for broadcast and multicast services via a cellular network. The primary goal was to enable efficient delivery of multimedia content and software to handsets.

Despite intense debate on the impact it would have on TV broadcasting, it never took off. Nor, in fact, did various other mobile broadcasting initiatives, including DVB-T, DVB-H, and MediaFLO. (See Qualcomm Open to Selling FLO TV Unit.)

Now, as operators transition their networks to LTE, a new mobile broadcasting initiative is being launched. And like most LTE-oriented terminology, it has an "e" in front of it. But is there really more to it than the extra letter?

Why now?
eMBMS is certainly driving operator interest. Several have commissioned trials, including SingTel, Vodafone Germany, Telstra, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, and Filipino operator Smart Communications, among others. And South Korean operator KT has already launched an LTE broadcast service as of January 2014.

So why go back to yet another mobile broadcast technology? Operators and the vendors involved make strong arguments in favor of eMBMS:

  • Traffic offload: Mobile traffic is growing at a staggering rate. Data traffic will grow tenfold between 2013 and 2019, according to Ericsson's November 2013 Mobility Report. And video is clearly the driver. Even in interviews I conducted in late 2011, it already comprised the majority of network traffic for some operators. Cisco now predicts that video will be responsible for two-thirds of all mobile traffic in 2017. Even if you disagree with the specific number and forecasts, there is no question video traffic is growing on mobile networks. As such, it would be helpful to operators to be able to offload content that creates spikes in their network. Live sports and other hugely popular events such as the Obama inauguration and the Royal Wedding could simply be broadcast live at high quality rather than offered via unicast streams over a congested network.
  • Cost optimization: In addition to improving end-user QoE, eMBMS can also help with network optimization and cost efficiency. Vendors report that even if three viewers are tuned into the same video content, broadcast is a more network efficient approach than unicast streaming. Obviously, this also affects the scalability of the network.
  • New apps/services: eMBMS also enables delivery of additional content and new applications. For example, an LTE broadcast service in a sports stadium could offer replays, multiple camera angles, statistics etc. These capabilities could also enable new revenue for operators, via contests, paid polling, and advertising.
  • Dynamic resource allocation: The most important difference between MBMS and eMBMS (apart from the extra "e", of course) is that eMBMS allows for network resources to be dynamically allocated by the operator. An operator can choose to dedicate network capacity in a particular area for a particular event to broadcast services, and then re-allocate that capacity to regular data traffic once the event is complete. This was a huge hurdle in the adoption of MBMS, according to operators I spoke to, and is the primary reason they are now reconsidering mobile broadcast.

    Yes, but…
    There are also a few important arguments that run counter to those outlined above.

  • Limited use-cases: The most compelling use-case for eMBMS seems to be in-stadium broadcasts of supplementary content (i.e. replays, multiple camera angles, statistics, and so on). It is also likely that broadcasts of live sporting and other events could be another attractive option, though there are some considerations around time-shifting preferences of viewers. There's also a potential opportunity for software downloads and M2M communication. Beyond that, it isn't immediately clear what other use-cases mobile broadcasting would serve in a compelling way.
  • Indoor coverage issues: One operator also mentioned issues with indoor reception. This could be an important concern since seamless, anywhere access is an important part of the mobile video value-proposition.
  • LTE penetration: LTE penetration is still comparatively limited. While way more than 100 operators worldwide have launched LTE, that doesn't mean LTE is necessarily available across their entire network today. Nor is all user equipment LTE-capable, even within covered areas. According to GSMA Intelligence, LTE will account for just 4% of the world's mobile connections by 2015. As such, LTE-based services will be limited in their impact and scope for years to come.
  • Eco-system development: Mobile TV broadcasting will require agreements among a wide variety of value-chain stakeholders and technologies. While technology vendors can be pushed into moving faster, any new form of TV distribution has always been held up by licensing agreements, release windows, local market black-outs and exclusivity clauses and various other content acquisition hurdles. eMBMS will likely be delayed while rights owners sign off on the service. Other eco-system players, such as stadium and venue owners, will also be required to join, as well as advertisers (if it is to be a revenue-generating service).
  • Déjà vu: Many of the benefits listed earlier were also stated when 3G was being deployed. It's important to remember that mobile broadcasting did not find success then, and nor did new revenue models emerge, a new business eco-system develop, etc. You have to ask: Why should it all fall into place now?

    More questions than answers
    It seems that at least for now, eMBMS raises more questions than answers. LTE leaders such as South Korea, Japan, the US, and Australia may be able to move faster than the rest of the world, but for the rest, eMBMS will take time. Issues such as LTE coverage, device penetration, use-cases that are technically viable and economically sound, the development of revenue models, and a functional business eco-system incorporating content owners, venue owners, advertisers, enterprises (for some suggested M2M scenarios), still remain to be resolved.

    Still, eMBMS does offer potential solutions for some critical problems, not least of which is smoothing out spikes in mobile video traffic due to highly popular one-off events.

    Operators also point out that mobile usage behaviors have evolved in recent years. Tablet and smartphone viewing of video is growing rapidly, with Ooyala's Q4 Global Index predicting that half of all online video viewing will be done on mobile and tablet devices by 2016. This not only means more traffic on mobile networks over time, but also more demand -- and potentially willingness to pay -- for mobile broadcast services.

    Lastly, the dynamic resource capability is particularly important, as operators no longer have to hard-wire broadcast capacity into their networks.

    As such, I would expect eMBMS will largely be evaluated over the next two years, with broad deployments only building up subsequently.

    — Aditya Kishore, Principal Analyst, Diametric Analysis .

    (1)  | 
    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
  • Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
    komatineni
    50%
    50%
    komatineni,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    4/12/2014 | 3:04:43 AM
    re: What is the biz case
    The 'case' is assuming that broadcast will lead or takeover the personal consumption. Today, majority of people seen having a personal or unique genre of entertainment habbits over mobiles. Also, gone were the days of the assumption where people just use mobile device to watch TV :)

    IMHO, this may not even see mass deployment.
    Educational Resources
    sponsor supplied content
    Educational Resources Archive
    More Blogs from Column
    The industry is at an inflection point, and one of the looming disruptors is 5G.
    Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
    Cable companies still dominate the scene at INTX, the event formerly known as The Cable Show.
    What is the best way to support both layer 2 and layer 3 services at the edge of the network that incorporates virtual network functions?
    How fast is too fast in terms of communication? Unless our lives and actions start being measured in seconds, do we really need a 43 Tbps connection to fulfill our everyday tasks?
    Flash Poll
    From The Founder
    Last week I dropped in on "Hotlanta," Georgia to moderate Light Reading's inaugural DroneComm conference – a unique colloquium investigating the potential for drone communications to disrupt the world's telecom ecosystem. As you will see, it was a day of exploration and epiphany...
    LRTV Documentaries
    Verizon's Emmons: SDN Key to Cost-Effective Scaling

    5|22|15   |   03:53   |   (0) comments


    For Verizon and other network operators to ramp up available bandwidth cost effectively, they need to move to SDN and agree on how to do that.
    LRTV Documentaries
    Lack of Universal SDN a Challenge

    5|21|15   |   04:51   |   (3) comments


    Heavy Reading Analyst Sterling Perrin talks about how uncertainty about SDN standards and approaches may be slowing deployment.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Steve Vogelsang Interview: Carrier SDN

    5|20|15   |   05:02   |   (0) comments


    Sterling Perrin speaks to Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, about the new Carrier SDN-enabling Network Services Platform and the operator challenges it solves.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Carrier SDN: On-Demand Networks for an On-Demand World

    5|20|15   |   20:52   |   (0) comments


    Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, talks about requirements and benefits of Carrier SDN during the keynote address at the Light Reading Carrier SDN event May 2015.
    LRTV Documentaries
    The Security Challenge of SDN

    5|19|15   |   02:52   |   (0) comments


    CenturyLink VP James Feger discusses concerns that virtualization could create new vulnerabilities unless network operators build in safeguards.
    LRTV Custom TV
    NFV Elasticity – Highly Available VNF Scale-Out Architectures for the Mobile Edge

    5|18|15   |   5:50   |   (0) comments


    Peter Marek and Paul Stevens from Advantech Networks and Communications Group talk about their NFV Elasticity initiative and the company's latest platforms for deploying virtual network functions at the edge of the network. Packetarium XL and the new Versatile Server Module: 'designed to reach parts of the network that other servers cannot reach.'
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Bay Area Spark Meetup 2015

    5|14|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


    Developed in 2009, Apache Spark is a powerful open source processing engine built around speed, ease of use and sophisticated analytics. This spring, Huawei hosted a meetup for Spark developers and data scientists in Santa Clara, California. Light Reading spoke with organizers and attendees about Huawei's code contributions and long-term commitment to Spark.
    LRTV Custom TV
    The Transport SDN Buzz

    5|12|15   |   06:01   |   (1) comment


    Sterling Perrin, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, speaks with Peter Ashwood-Smith of Huawei and Guru Parulkar of ON.Lab about the evolution of transport SDN and the integration of technologies.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Next-Generation CCAP: Cisco cBR-8 Evolved CCAP

    5|5|15   |   04:49   |   (0) comments


    John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explained the innovation design of Cisco's cBR-8, the industry's first Evolved CCAP, including DOCSIS 3.1 design from ground-up, distributed CCAP with Remote PHY and path to virtualization. Cisco's cBR-8 Evolved CCAP is the platform that will last through the transitions.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Meeting the Demands of Bandwidth & Service Group Growth

    5|1|15   |   5:35   |   (0) comments


    Jorge Salinger, Comcast's Vice President of Access Architecture, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 and multi-service CCAP can meet the demands of the bandwidth and service group growth.
    LRTV Custom TV
    DOCSIS 3.1: Transforming Cable From Hardware-Defined Network to Software-Defined Network

    4|29|15   |   03:48   |   (0) comments


    John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 can transform cable HFC network to a more agile software-defined network.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Predicting Traffic Patterns for Quality Mobile Broadband

    4|29|15   |   6:45   |   (0) comments


    Accessing information ubiquitously creates complexity and creates heavy traffic onto the network, especially at large-scale events like sporting events or festivals. In this video, Huawei's Mohammad Hussain speaks to experts about how to predict traffic and improve user experience during periods of heavy traffic.
    Upcoming Live Events
    June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
    June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
    June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
    June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
    September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
    October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
    October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Infographics
    Network functions virtualization (NFV) is not the easiest of topics to take on board, so here's a Light Reading infographic, developed following conversations with the folks at HP, that helps make sense of where NFV is taking the industry.
    Hot Topics
    10 Alternate Uses for Tablets
    Eryn Leavens, Copy Desk Editor, 5/22/2015
    Bidding War for TWC Looks Likelier
    Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 5/22/2015
    Verizon Saves 60% Swapping Copper for Fiber
    Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 5/19/2015
    Comcast Targets 6 New Gigabit Markets
    Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/21/2015
    Chattanooga Charts Killer Gigabit Apps
    Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/20/2015
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    Webinar Archive
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    With 200 customers in 60 countries, Stockholm-based Net Insight has carved out a solid leadership position in one of the hottest vertical markets going in comms right now: helping service providers and broadcasters deliver video and other multimedia traffic over IP networks. How has Net Insight managed to achieve this success in the face of immense competition from the industry giants?
    My ongoing interview tour of the leading minds of the telecom industry recently took me to Richardson, Texas, where I met with Rod Naphan, CTO and SVP, Solutions, ...
    I recently popped down to Texas to chat with CEO Eric L. Pratt about his company, Taqua.
    Cats with Phones
    Too Fluffy to Talk Click Here
    Elmer found that his bountiful fur got in the way of meaningful conversation.