& cplSiteName &

eMBMS: Revolutionary Technology or Alphabet Soup?

Aditya Kishore

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 .

    (2)  | 
    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
  • Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
    User Rank: Light Beer
    4/28/2016 | 6:43:04 AM
    I guide the students that how they can pass the exams and how can they get the certification for the latest knowledge this certification exam students click at exam or visit its certification its better for your bright future and will helpful 640-461 vce
    User Rank: Lightning
    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.
    More Blogs from Column
    Addressing current and future app demands while laying the foundation for mobile's next big network transition.
    Broadcasters can no longer rely on pulling audiences to the TV screen; they need to pursue their audiences on digital, wherever they are.
    Why advanced data analytics are the future for streaming video services.
    5G could ride the traditional wireless hype cycle, or – quite possibly – break the chain, suggests Nokia's North American CTO.
    NFV feels like it's going nowhere fast, suggests Napatech's Dan Joe Barry.
    Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
    Wednesday, November 9, 1:00PM EST
    MANO 101
    Toby Ford, AVP, Cloud Technology, Strategy & Planning, AT&T
    Friday, November 11, 1:00PM EST
    Open Source for NFV MANO
    Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
    SDN 101
    John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
    Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
    SDN & Open Source
    Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
    in association with:
    From The Founder
    Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
    Flash Poll
    Live Streaming Video
    Charting the CSP's Future
    Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
    LRTV Custom TV
    OneAccess NFV Solutions

    10|26|16   |   5:30   |   (0) comments

    Antoine Clerget, CTO of OneAccess, discusses how his company has expanded its product line from enterprise-class routers to include a universal virtualized CPE as well as a suite of VNFs to help telco customers evolve to an NFV future.
    LRTV Custom TV
    The Journey Toward Carrier-Grade WiFi

    10|26|16   |   3:39   |   (0) comments

    In this Light Reading interview, Dave Sperling, CTO at Smith Micro Software and active participant of the WBA's policy working group, discusses the need for carrier-grade WiFi. Technical and business challenges slowing the fulfillment of this goal are addressed, as well as management strategies that will enable communication service providers to optimize end user ...
    LRTV Custom TV
    ZTE BBWF Highlights

    10|26|16   |     |   (0) comments

    At BBWF 2016, ZTE showed a broad range of innovative technologies that are kick-starting an ultrafast broadband journey.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

    10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

    At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

    10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

    At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

    10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

    At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Huawei at SCTE 2016

    10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

    Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

    10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

    As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
    Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
    A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

    10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

    Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
    LRTV Custom TV
    New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

    10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

    A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
    Women in Comms Introduction Videos
    Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

    10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

    Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
    LRTV Custom TV
    ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

    10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

    ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
    Upcoming Live Events
    November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
    November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
    December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
    December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
    May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Hot Topics
    Trump: Dump AT&T/TW & Comcast/NBC
    Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/24/2016
    Google Fiber Hits Pause Button, Scales Back
    Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/26/2016
    T-Mobile: AT&T & TW Means Ma Bell Not Focused on Mobile
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/24/2016
    Sprint: Revenue up 3%, Capex Will Rise Again
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/25/2016
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
    There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
    Animals with Phones
    'Oh, Were You Looking for This?' Click Here
    'I was just playing some games...'
    Live Digital Audio

    A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

    During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.