Data delivery is the “hidden gem” for LTE Broadcast apps, says MobiTV
While the delivery of live video over LTE Broadcast appears proven, what is exciting MobiTV is the data delivery mode of the advanced 4G mobile format. Off the back of tests with AT&T at the college football playoff championship at AT&T Stadium, North Texas, on 12 January, Kerry Travilla, senior director of technology at the mobile media solutions provider, remarks that file delivery by LTE is the “hidden gem”.
“File delivery is the unsung hero,” he says. “For two reasons. Firstly, in order to create an engaging app you need to have data such as realtime score updates, Twitter feeds, breaking news and statistics sent alongside the live stream and the mechanism to do that is the file delivery portion of LTE Broadcast. That is what keeps the app engaging. It also keeps the app from trying to access that interactive content over unicast. If that happened it would make the network inefficient.
“Secondly, any place there’s a need for large scale distribution of content – such as mass firmware updates to mobile devices – then LTE Broadcast is ideal since you can hit millions of handsets in one swoop rather than having a million individual requests by HTTP.”
MobiTV provided the app in the AT&T tests, just as it did with Verizon during last year’s Super Bowl trial, and as it will do again for AT&T at the Super Bowl XLIX. Three live channels plus a data stream of stats will be sent to around 40 handsets.
“I think the meat and potatoes is there in terms of rolling out a service, although technologies like automatic detection when moving between unicast and multicast are not yet implemented,” says Travilla.
The reason that sports has been focused on for LTE Broadcast trials, says Travilla, is as much pragmatic as there is a business application. “Sports arenas solved a lot of fundamental equations for a LTE broadcast solution. Arenas have a large concentration of people and LTE Broadcast needs critical mass. Secondly it involves video and most people feel that most valuable content is live video. In addition, a lot of carriers have connections with different sports franchises so it’s all-round a great intersection to do these public demos.”
Multicast is possible over WiFi, although it can suffer from low data rates and is considered less efficient than LTE Broadcast. Besides which, says Travilla, handsets are being brought to market with LTE Broadcast chips baked in from Qualcomm, Roundbox and other vendors.
“Most handsets don’t have Wifi tuned for multicast delivery,” he notes. “LTE Broadcast is attractive (over other potential mobile broadcast solutions like DVB-H) because existing network equipment can be upgraded. It’s not a rip and replace approach.
“Any use of the 4G cellular network is using a very expensive resource in terms of spectrum so my view is that LTE Broadcast is a win for the operators because of the efficiency gains on the network management side.”