LTE Broadcast Demonstrated at International Trade Show

BARCELONA, SPAIN: Two wireless giants are demonstrating a transmission method similar to one proposed by a U.S. broadcast coalition last fall. Ericsson and Qualcomm unveiled “LTE Broadcast” at the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, taking place now through March 1.

“The platform has the potential to significantly reduce operators' costs by allowing them to optimize content and software distribution using broadcast principles over LTE networks,” Qualcomm said.

LTE Broadcast leverages the cellular infrastructure in a way that allows it to delivery content to multiple users simultaneously, as opposed to the one-to-one model now used.

“In this way,” Ericsson noted, “operators will be able to maximize efficiency when offering services such as live TV, video-on-demand, podcasts and even software upgrades to a large number of mobile devices and set-top boxes.”

Commercial deployment of LTE Broadcast products is expected in 2014, the handset maker said.

Last October, the Coalition for Free TV and Broadband unveiled what it referred to as an “alternative to the auction of broadcast spectrum.” Thegroup, comprising multiple TV stations, advertisers and others, suggested a system by which wireless carriers off-loaded IP traffic onto the broadcast infrastructure to cope with increasing demand from smartphones. The system would require the implementation of a new broadcast TV standard based in part on the advanced LTE wireless standard. It was presented as a fiscal alternative to spectrum auctions because it would generate ongoing revenue for the government through the 5 percent fee broadcasters are required to pay for any ancillary service unrelated to the delivery of free TV.

Mark Aitken, vice president of advanced technology for Sinclair Broadcast Group, presented the Coalition plan. He said it differs from the one being demonstrated by Qualcomm and Ericsson from an infrastructure standpoint. The Coalition plan would use the tall-tower broadcast infrastructure to cover large areas. The Qualcomm-Ericsson model relies on a method to combine the capacity of several cell towers to cover large areas.

“It is one-way,” he said. “They lose some unicast capacity, but gain the ability to reach a mass audience with simultaneous content.”

~Deborah D. McAdams