The State of Mobile Video 2015

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EE’s ambitions further include trials of a 400Mbps service, which would make it the fastest 4G provider in the world. Those speeds are likely to first be seen at Wembley Stadium, the national sports venue in north London, with a wider rollout planned for 2016.

From lagging far behind mobile broadband economies such as South Korea and even the U.S., by 2017 the U.K. may have leapt into the lead.

So confident are telecom operators of business based on video that two of them are launching TV services. EE will market a £300 (about $471.51) STB with access to Freeview channels and BBC iPlayer. This will compete directly with YouView, the collaboration between broadcasters and broadband companies including the BBC and TalkTalk. While it was a home TV service on launch, EE plans to migrate the service to its 4G network. In response, Vodafone—which already runs multiplatform TV services in Germany, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands—also announced its intention to open a similar offer in the U.K.

Reporting company earnings in November, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said that one-fifth of its mobile data in Europe is from its 4G network. “Video and audio today is 40 percent of the total traffic. Video is increasing to almost 90 percent in Europe,” he said. “YouTube and Facebook are helping to drive this growth.”

The EU is also investing €700 million (about $872 million) in 5G technology, which is reckoned to be deliver speeds around 10 times faster than 4G connections. It’s also looking for commercial spending to bring the total to more than €3 billion (about $3.74 billion). 5G standardisation isn’t expected until at least 2020 although LTE and LTE-A is considered part of it.

“We need to think beyond borders and come up with a global approach towards 5G by the end of 2015,” Kroes urged. “5G will offer totally new possibilities to connect people, and also things—cars, houses, energy infrastructures. However, we are still a decade away from 5G deployment and we still do not have an EU-wide 4G network on which 5G will be built.”

In November, Nokia signalled its intention to build a test case for 5G in the north of its native Finland.

Europe Poised to Open Up Spectrum

The debate about spectrum can be a dry topic, but the decisions on its allocation have far-reaching consequences for industry and consumers.

The immediate debate hinges on the 700MHz UHF band currently used to service 250 million people in Europe with free-to-air digital terrestrial TV.

Worldwide, consumers are increasingly accessing video on 4G-dominated networks. (Source: Ericsson) 

FTA broadcasters might have to cede this frequency to mobile operators after a recommendation to the European Commission. Pascal Lamy’s report, commissioned by the EC and published in September, proposed that 700MHz be dedicated to mobile usage by 2020.

The report also proposed that the remaining UHF spectrum below 700MHz be safeguarded for broadcasters until 2030.

Debate over the resource intensified during the year with compelling arguments heard from both sides. Those in the mobile camp maintain that even getting hold of 700MHz to boost 4G and LTE-Broadcast capacity) by 2020 is several years too late.

“Limiting Europe’s flexibility on the possible coexistence of mobile and digital broadcast services until 2030 will discourage investment in world-leading mobile networks,” Anne Bouverot, director general of GSMA, said in response to Lamy.

“Europe is at risk of falling behind in terms of global competitiveness,” added GSMA’s Giusti. At IBC he questioned whether terrestrial TV or mobile provided greater economic contribution.

“The answer is unambiguous. In 2013 the economic value of mobile in the EU was €269 billion (about $335 billion) compared to €48 billion (about $59.8 billion) for digital terrestrial television (DTT) and radio. We estimate that the divide will grow stronger with mobile value increasing 77 percent in the next decade and TV dropping by 50 percent in the same time frame.”

EU figures suggest that viewing to DTT has dropped by 10 percent in the past year. Some broadcasters are moving toward a broadband-only content delivery—the BBC’s decision to axe BBC3 from the airwaves and make it online-only from 2015 is a case in point.

Countering the broadcast lobby’s argument that DTT provides valuable public service, Guillaume Lebrun, director of spectrum and technology policy at Qualcomm, says, “Mobile is also an enabling force in ecommerce, vehicle, and home connectivity, health and education.”

The EBU naturally takes the opposite line. The case against the cost of clearing DTT from the spectrum outweighed the benefit of the switch by a factor of four, it says. “There is no proven demand for 700 MHz yet, and 800 MHz is not fully deployed,” says Simon Fell, EBU director of technology and innovation. Recognising that mobile traffic will increase by 50-60 percent by 2017 he suggested most of that growth will be absorbed by Wi-Fi.

Comcast weighed into the debate with an eye-catching calculation that were mobile broadband charges chalked up the same way as Wi-Fi is used to stream video, it would cost $2,000 to watch every episode of Breaking Bad in a month.

Protecting the spectrum until at least 2030 is also important to protect investment in new public broadcast services such as HEVC codecs for UHD. Tests on this in 2014 included sending 4K live feeds of the World Cup from Brazil and over the DTT infrastructure in the U.K., organised by the BBC.

“The Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast live to 190 million people. How is that possible over mobile?” Fell asked. “The value to the public is immeasurable and cannot be reduced to a rolling 2-year contract.”

In the U.K., Ofcom is assessing the situation and believes that even if 700MHz were allocated to mobile free to view TV can still be safeguarded. The German government and its FTA broadcasters come to a similar conclusion and plan to use HEVC and new DTT transmission scheme DVBT2 in a rollout beginning 2017. For broadcasters this means DVBT2 can be used to deliver mobile broadband services and should prevent any culling of bandwidth below 700MHz.

“I welcome the migration by terrestrial networks from 700MHz but to discuss spectrum below that would destroy the DTT platform,” says Lars Buckland, secretary general, Broadcast Networks Europe.

While there is a push in Europe to take the 700MHz UHF band currently used by free-to-air TV and allocate it to mobile, the European Broadcast Union opposes such a move. “The Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast live to 190 million people,” says EBU directory of technology and innovation Simon Fell. “How is that possible over mobile? The value to the public is immeasurable and can’t be reduced to a rolling 2-year contract.” 

The debate is characterised as black and white, when in reality a balance needs to be found. “Rather than exercising judgement we could take a massive gamble based on ideological belief or political imperative,” says Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Digital U.K. “Now is not the time to risk Europe’s most popular TV platform on shaky business models and uncertain economics. DTT will be the backbone of free-to-air broadcast for many years to come. This is not about sticking our head in the sand. If we don’t innovate in the way we use spectrum we don’t deserve to hold on to it.”

LTE Broadcast: From Test to Commercial Reality

The broadcast mode of LTE (eMBMS/Evolved Multimedia Broadcast and Multicast Service), in combination with HEVC and MPEG DASH, is being tested to address growing consumer demand for video services.

Video-intensive bandwidth demands explain why mobile video is such a drain on the network, but by multicasting live content over cellular networks, carriers could conserve valuable 4G capacity. By using LTE-Broadcast, carriers could reduce demand on networks by 12.5 percent and by 15 percent at peak hours, according to iGR.

At the beginning of the year, South Korean mobile network operator KT began the world’s first national LTE-Broadcast service, preceding a series of trials by operators in the U.S and Europe.

The most visible was a collaboration by the BBC, EE, Qualcomm, and Huawei at Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games in July. Three events were streamed simultaneously using eMBMS in MPEG-DASH and sent over IP to a Huawei server situated within the EE test labs. Content was encapsulated within multicast and transmitted on the 2.6GHz spectrum. Those attending the showcase in Glasgow were be able to watch the footage on their mobile devices via 4G broadcast.

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