5G & LTE TV broadcast, a business opportunity for MNOs & Service Providers

5G & LTE TV broadcast, a business opportunity for MNOs & Service Providers

5G was perhaps the biggest buzzword during the 2015 Mobile World Congress. Especially, when the industry has agreed that the next five years represents a viable timeframe in which to develop the technology, standardize it, and then commercially deploy it beyond 2020. However, the rally for the leading vendors has just begun and why is that? Olympics make the 5G world go round. First, South Korean operators SK Telecom and KT Corp intend to have 5G networks in place by 2018, when the country is due to host the Winter Olympics. Then, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, which aims to have a 5G network up and running in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But wouldnt LTE TV broadcast generate opportunities for Service Providers and MNOs along with the 5G preparation?

LTE Broadcast can drive the TV Anywhere Experience. LTE will certainly play a major role in TV distribution by 2020 or even earlier. This topic is part of our new 5G research project, recently launched by ExelixisNet Market Research examining business and technology opportunities for the beyond LTE ecosystem. LTE can give service providers the flexibility to alter between broadcast and unicast, depending on how many people want to watch at a particular time. This way, they can offer consumers personalized mobile TV with good quality in an efficient way. Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Service (MBMS) has been standardized by 3GPP (3GPP Release 9) and is often called eMBMS.

During 2014 there have been extensive service demos from Australia, to UK and US operators. This new promising service is ideal for subscribers that wish to watch mainly sport or other special events, live on their handsets. If we also add the 4K video dimension that Huawei was exhibiting this year in Barcelona, then things get quiet complicated. All major vendors have tested the service either in collaboration with TV channels or MNOs as such Huawei with BBC in the UK, Nokia Networks with Bayerischer Rundfunk, in Northern Munich and recently Ericsson demonstrated the service with AT&T in the US, as well as with Australian Telstra.

In January 2015, during the Monday night’s college football game between Oregon and Ohio State, AT&T used the technology to show a pair of live feeds to about 100 media members, when the technology promises the ability of sending video easily to everyone in the stadium.  Acting as a TV station it should be able to broadcast to any number of homes that tune in via an antenna. For this specific case AT&T used Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 devices to receive the signal, thanks to special firmware from Qualcomm, broadcast equipment from Ericsson and an app from MobiTV. We must mention that Qualcomm is a key partner to these type of demos to both Ericsson and Huawei providing the righ equipment needed for a successful trial.

Use cases and bebefits

LTE Broadcast allows for a free-to-air or pay-TV service based on the content, premium or public, that can be received by anybody with a suitable device, similar to traditional TV broadcasting. Broadcasters and content providers could extend their reach to mobile users and open the door for a multitude of interactive services. There are some quiet interesting use cases to be developed based on customized content:

  1. Events: exclusive high quality content
  2. Education: popular lecture streaming
  3. Business: commercial services for businesses with customized content

An example of a business case tailored to the Olympic Games. If one operator with 25 million mobile subscribers had implemented LTE Broadcast in the major cities of a country hosting the Olympics and provided premium-content services including multiple in-venue channels around the stadiums with multiple camera feeds and nationwide broadcasting of quarter-final and semi-final heats, as well as Olympic finals. The MNO could then have offered its subscribers a special pay-per-event package of $6 which would have been charged separately of the data bucket. With just 10 percent penetration, the MNO could potentially have generated roughly up to $14M during the course of the event.

Are we there yet? We would rather say that we are in a refining process that would rather conclude by 2018. There are still a few technical and regulatory difficulties to overcome, as Ulf Ewaldsson, Senior Vice President and Group CTO at Ericsson mentioned during the 2014 EMEA Analysts Summit in Stockholm, “we are not at that point yet where LTE TV broadcast can support commercially a TV Anywhere service but we are getting there”.

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