The State of Mobile Video 2015

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EE plans another stadium trial in Q1 2015 with 4K content with commercial deployments earmarked for 2016, again beginning with stadiums.

Stadiums have been the focus of tests to date since they provide a concentrated population of smartphone users whose network congestion could be relieved by LTE-B. On top of that, telcos and rightsholders spy opportunities to deliver in-stadia services such as live stream feeds, replays, and statistics. Airports are other target venues where people are most likely to stream the same content. While unicast on-demand video will remain the main delivery model, LTE-B promises useful capacity management.

Mike Wright, group managing director of Australia’s Telstra, which conducted its first LTE-B test at Melbourne Cricket Ground last January, says that there are two main benefits. “One is about the way we more efficiently design a network which is going to save us costs, and then there is potential for new services and new revenue streams. When you put the two together you have a business case.”

Telstra’s test used 6GB of bandwidth to air three live streams, rather than 2GB of bandwidth per channel for each connected user. Other applications include broadcast to moving vehicles (connected cars), digital signage, and emergency service broadcasts.

“There will be a core range of applications for this tech, which will get it started,” says Wright. “Once established in the network, it will begin to grow on its own. We just need to get it started.”

Vodafone partnered with Ericsson to test the tech during a soccer match at Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany; KPN did the same at Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena, as did Orange at Roland Garros and Poland’s Polkomtel at Warsaw’s National Stadium.

In the U.S., AT&T and Verizon, which tested at some at Indy car races, are expected to deploy LTE Broadcast commercially sometime in 2015. At August’s Oppenheimer Technology, Internet & Communications Conference in Boston, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo called the advent of the technology “the pivotal point that starts to change the way content is delivered over a mobile handset which opens up content into the wireless world.”

In July, Nokia Networks and a consortia including German research body Institut für Rundfunktechnik launched Europe’s first eMBMS trials for national broadcasting. This trial in Munich was the first to apply the technology on the UHF spectrum, using part of the 700MHz band to broadcast over a 200 square-km area. 700MHz is the hotly contested spectrum used by DTT in Europe.

“Our approach is to learn if there is a new convergent system benefiting TV and mobile for both linear and on-demand personalised video,” says Klaus Illgner-Fehns, managing director, IRT. “Is there a unified air interface which can serve millions of users at the same time and provide business opportunities for both mobile and broadcast?”

Cellular networks are increasingly being used for video acquisition. In 2014, BT Sport outfitted three vehicles with LiveU LU500 units and Xtender remote antennas, giving the network a “fleet-footed and effective way of allowing sports journalists to get the story back to us,” says BT chief engineer Andy Beale. 

According to Nokia, LTE-B promises new revenue sources for operators by distributing TV over existing mobile broadband infrastructure. Subscribers would be able to watch TV on their devices without eating into their mobile data plan and independent of network load. It would allow for a free-to-air or pay TV service while broadcasters and content providers could extend their reach to mobile users and open the door for a multitude of interactive services.

The drive to LTE has not yet been as strong in the region as in North America because Europe lacks a harmonised approach to technology rollouts. However, Ericsson is among those that suggest the lag is also the result of factors such as having well-developed 3G networks.

Devices are another impediment to wide consumer adoption, although Qualcomm has begun to introduce eMBMS support as standard issue in its Snapdragon chipsets.

Speaking on the topic at trade event IBC, Frank Hermans, Ericsson’s head of TV and media sales, said, “We see the 2015-2019 time frame holding significant revenue opportunities once you bring the ecosystem partners together of content, stadia, mobile, and technology. There is real money in LTE Broadcast. Innovation will only increase.”

Cellular Opens New Markets

There is a profound technology shift in electronic newsgathering (ENG) underway as wireless technologies augment and in some cases supplant satellite systems.

Claimed as Europe’s first cellular newsgathering fleet (CNG), BT Sport outfitted three vehicles with LiveU LU500 units and Xtender remote antennas. Each LU500 backpack can be connected wirelessly (up to 1,000 metres) or via Ethernet to the Xtender that sits on top of each vehicle.

“We now have a fleet-footed and effective way of allowing sports journalists to get the story back to us,” explains Andy Beale, chief engineer with BT Sport.

News agency ITN signed a multi-year contract with BT’s Media and Broadcast division, to provide location news teams with wireless transmission technology across London.

The camera-mounted RF system called BT Media Live will allow ITN camera crews to broadcast live or transfer footage wirelessly to its studios from locations throughout the capital linked through BT Tower.

BT also plans to cover other U.K. cities with hubs to service the RF system. “There are so many news stories in our cities, but covering them can be a logistical headache when you have to secure a connection, find somewhere to park the truck, and book satellite space. Add the costs of maintaining your own receive sites and the challenge for broadcasters is clear,” says Mark Wilson-Dunn, vice president of BT Media & Broadcast.

In the U.S., Spanish-language broadcaster Noticias MundoFOX based its entire ENG operation on LIVE+ 20/20 cellular-bonded transmitters from Dejero. MundoFOX has deployed a transmitter at each of its bureaus in Mexico City; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and NYC, with two LIVE+ servers installed in the network’s headquarters in LA. With feeds coming into the servers from the transmitters, operators can access the content and route it as required for playout to a live broadcast, or archive it for use in a later production.

“Budget is always a large consideration for a start-up news network,” says Armando Acevedo, the network’s director of operations. “The ability to cover live, breaking news from the source is a critical differentiator but can also be a major expense area, especially if the station has to maintain costly satellite vehicles.”

The farther away from sports venues and metropolitan areas you go, the more likely satcoms are to remain the first, and in many cases, only, system guaranteed to work. You don’t have to stray into war zones or disaster aftermaths, either; rural locales in Europe are chronically underserved by reliable cellular connections.

Consequently, a hybrid of new lighter-weight, portable Ka-band satellite terminals and 3G/4G on-camera and backpack systems (which will also connect to satellite) will be in most newsgatherers’ flyaway baggage.

“The future of newsgathering will rely on hybrid multi-mode systems providing live video over a multitude of communication infrastructures,” says Ali Zarkesh, product development director at Vislink. “While the use of cellular is increasing, if you base your whole communications policy on it you have to bare in mind the limitations.”

This article appears in the 2015 Streaming Media Europe Sourcebook as "The State of Mobile Video."

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