Streaming video over DSL or high-speed cable to localized devices in a home network has been providing viewers with up-to high definition (HD) picture and reasonable quality of service.
In nearly all major metropolitan areas it’s now possible to have sufficient bandwidth, at reasonable cost, such that multiple devices (e.g., TV, Laptop, Tablet, Smartphone, etc.) can each show different programming.
However, when going mobile and relying on the typical wireless cellular network, the streaming video experience degrades considerably. Most viewers using a Smartphone or iPad with their cellular data connection encounter pauses while the data is buffered, or the video is dropped completely. This can be tolerated for pre-recorded material such as YouTube videos and TV episodes, but is unacceptable for live events like the Academy Awards, Election Results or the Super Bowl.
Streaming video without an unlimited data plan can also be expensive in terms of megabytes of data used under a typical phone plan.
The concept of “anywhere, anytime viewing” has become synonymous with “Mobile Broadcast TV”. In this scenario, viewers could be at a live event (such as the Super Bowl) and be simultaneously watching the network coverage, commentary, etc. on their smart device. This merges the “second screen” of the smart device in real time with the activity as it happens. Mobile viewers are now able to watch the same broadcast TV stream as home users on a traditional television. It would also be possible for a smart device to work much like a single channel DVR (Digital Video Recorder), storing a broadcast for later viewing.
To achieve this, LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks are being put in place by the major cellular providers. LTE is also referred to as “4G”, indicating it’s the fourth generation communications standard implemented. Prior to this was the “3G” technology, and soon to follow 4G will be 5G. As its name indicates, the standards, capabilities and features continue to evolve as technological advances and regulatory changes come about.
Without going into too much technical detail, 4G differs from the earlier generations in that 4G is purely an Internet Protocol (IP) based communication system. 4G has also moved from a spread spectrum radio technology to an orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) communications. This all digital, multi-carrier implementation allows for sophisticated manipulation of the radio waves using frequency-domain equalization (FDE) schemes. Additionally, smart antenna systems such as multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) arrays can further boost the maximum data throughput while providing higher quality of service levels.
What all this means is that 4G makes it possible to transfer very high bit rates, with a better coverage area and using less power than was previously possible.
Verizon Communications has been a leader in the LTE deployment and has invested heavily in LTE Broadcast capabilities. In LTE Broadcast, the wireless provider dedicates a portion of their allocated frequency spectrum for television broadcast. This happens dynamically, so when demand for a live broadcast in an area increases, or decreases, a corresponding amount of the spectrum for that geographic location is adjusted. This means that Verizon can localize a live broadcast to a sports arena where tens of thousands of fans can access video from the on-field cameras, while not impacting cellular service in the surrounding areas.
Implementing LTE Broadcasting has multiple benefits for the wireless provider – most notably is that this frees the rest of their network to only carry voice and data. Verizon CEO, Lowell McAdam , had reported that more than half of all traffic on their network was from streaming video to mobile viewers. They estimate that within 5 years, this could grow to over 75%.
Currently, about 32% of all mobile devices support LTE 4G technology. This is increasing exponentially as users replace the existing devices with the new Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy and Motorola Droid.
LTE is also allowing content producers to create and distribute mobile broadcast TV. Companies such as StreamBox have battery powered, back-pack sized units which can transmit in real-time HD video over LTE networks. For product details and specifications, visit the ” Avenir-2 Mobile Encoder ” page.
The concept of broadcast is not limited to just mobile TV. This can also facilitate a high data channel so that companies, such as Apple or Motorola, can provide scheduled periodic updates to apps, operating systems and anything else required for their devices. Firmware and software could be downloaded seamlessly in the background across an entire platform without impacting the users or service.
Look forward to watching either the Super Bowl, Grammy’s or Academy Awards in 2014 over LTE on your smart device, wherever you may be.
(Image Credit – Verizon Communications )
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