Australia’s Telstra just became a video broadcaster — for a short spell at least. The carrier confirmed on Monday that it conducted tests of a new technique called LTE-Broadcast over its commercial 4G network, multicasting several sports events and even a file download to several mobile devices over the same wireless transmission.
The feat, which Telstra said is an industry first over a live LTE system, is a good sign that the technology will start appearing in networks in the coming year as carriers and telecom equipment makers had planned. Verizon Wireless will likely be the first operator to kick off the new technology, having promised to multicast video content from next year’s Super Bowl over its networks. AT&T plans to launch LTE-Broadcast systems as well, likely in the next three years.
While the mobile industry has tried to promote content broadcast networks in the past, they’ve fallen flat (most notably FLO TV). Not only did they require carriers to install new infrastructure and sell specialty broadcast-capable devices, but operators also tried to sell multicast content as a kind of mobile cable TV — charging subscription fees for content consumers could get for free and on-demand from other sources.
This time around, Qualcomm and Ericsson, who supplied the equipment for Telstra’s trials, believe they have found the right model to make multicast work. Instead of deploying new networks and launching separate TV service, carriers are using LTE-Broadcast to optimize their current 4G networks, Multicast allows them to stream popular live content to many subscribers simultaneously without eating up valuable mobile data capacity.