Mobile Video

AT&T Kicks Off LTE Broadcast

Following Verizon into the world of multicast LTE, AT&T has announced it will host the first live, on-site demo of LTE Broadcast technology at next week's college football national championship game.

Multicast LTE, known officially as evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS), uses a slice of spectrum to broadcast content to nearby compatible devices. Instead of sending each user a dedicated stream of content, multicast LTE provides one content stream that users can tune in to, much like a traditional broadcast TV solution. The technology significantly improves bandwidth efficiency and can be used to target content delivery in a specific place, during a specific time period.

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AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) didn't say what content it will broadcast over LTE at the January 12 championship game, but it did offer sample use cases for the technology. At a football game, LTE Broadcast could be used, for example, to stream helmet camera views, other alternative camera angles or related bonus footage. In other environments, it might be the vehicle for delivering software updates, music or other types of live video feeds not only to smartphones, but also to connected cars and other Internet of Things devices.

Verizon Wireless first demonstrated eMBMS during last year's Super Bowl at an event in New York. It has since suggested that commercial deployments won't happen until the end of 2015. (See Verizon: Multicast Is 'a Year Away'.)

Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam also stated this week that the company's mobile TV service will debut around the same end-of-year time frame. However, it's unclear how useful multicast LTE might be for that over-the-top TV solution. While multicast LTE saves bandwidth for operators, it doesn't offer time-shifting flexibility, and using LTE for video streaming can quickly eat up a user's monthly wireless data allowance. (See Verizon CEO: We Are Not a Content Company and Verizon Crafting OTT Business Models.)

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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