Analysis by Arthur D. Little suggests that while many operators have acquired spectrum for 4G services, this will become congested in areas of hotspot demand for concurrent viewing of live video services.
Consequently, they are seeking solutions (e.g. Wi-Fi offload, carrier aggregation, small cells) to alleviate the data crunch. Mobile broadcasting, in particular the 3GPP LTE standard based eMBMS (Mobile broadcast multimedia service), could be key to reducing effective peak traffic loads.
Mobile broadcasting as a concept is not new. Telcos have experimented with different technologies (MediaFLO, DVB-H) unsuccessfully in the past. For example, the development of DVB-H was impeded by limited consumer appeal, competing standards and a limited handset portfolio. With technological advancements, yesterday’s challenges have been substantially addressed, rendering today’s circumstances conducive to commercial launch of mobile broadcasting solutions - high-quality devices with HD/ultra HD screens, much better user interfaces and an evolved supplier ecosystem.
Mobile broadcast using LTE is already commercially launched - KT Mobile introduced the world’s first LTE broadcast service in January using Samsung’s eMBMS product. Additionally, leading operators like EE, Vodafone and Verizon have conducted trials at high-density sites like sports arenas.
Additional use cases for deploying mobile broadcasting provide differentiation possibilities, sector/segment specialism as well as unicast offload. Examples include:
- Media file distribution - Pre-recorded clips of popular ‘subscribe to’ channels or podcasts, weather, news roundup, sports highlights
- Group broadcast information - Location/group specific information broadcasting of data, images and audio
- Offload of data updates - Large-file managed mass download to many similar devices, such as scheduled timely downloads of mobile firmware, OS or anti-virus updates.
With spectrum being the lifeblood of mobile operators, mobile broadcasting allows MNOs to better utilize their current spectrum assets with a relatively low additional capex beyond 4G rollout costs - basic eMBMS is essentially an add-on upgrade.
Multicast technologies also open up several potential revenue opportunities. Operators could push content to users (pay per view event videos, advertisements) or to their B2B customers who are/were typically served by satellites.