Cellcos had better adopt LTE Broadcast sooner rather than later: report

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Mobile operators need to adopt eMBMS – a.k.a. LTE Broadcast – more aggressively than they have been, especially the operators with multi-screen assets and ambitions to provide superior mobile video and data experiences to customers.

So says Strategy Analytics in a new report that says that mobile TV services, particularly live events, will only increase in future as competition drives larger data bundles to 4G users. To meet growing mobile video demand while maintaining performance for all users, operators must embrace LTE Broadcast to drive support from smartphone vendors such as Apple.

However, the LTE Broadcast market has changed from optimism to caution in the last two years. No other mobile operators have launched commercial LTE Broadcast service since Verizon Wireless did so in 2015. Two main impediments are holding momentum for LTE Broadcast back, says Wei Shi, analyst of wireless media strategies: the lack of a reliable monetization model and weak mobile device support.

“Although LTE Broadcast is the best tool to deliver the same content simultaneously to multiple users using the broadcast channels, therefore ideal for covering live events, for example, sports or concerts, live video alone is not enough to make a paid-for service,” he says. “However, the cost saved from offloading the traffic data, largely generated by mobile video consumption, from unicast to multicast will justify operators’ limited investment to upgrade the network. In addition to packaging LTE Broadcast as part of operators’ service portfolios, there are other non-live video opportunities for the technology – for example, batch software updates, public information dissemination, and supplementing terrestrial broadcasting.”

Out of the 26,000 device models tracked by Strategy Analytics, more than 1,000 are using eMBMS capable chipsets, although very few devices are shipped with the feature enabled. For example, none of the iPhone models, which account for a combined 15% of the smartphone installed base, supports eMBMS. The launch and expansion of the LTE Broadcast Alliance in 2016 is a positive sign that the industry, led by a group of leading operators and technology companies, is actively addressing the device support issue.

“Leading mobile device makers have not rushed to equip a large number of their phones and tablets with the LTE Broadcast feature, the most obvious absence being Apple’s iPhones and iPads,” says Nitesh Patel, director of wireless media strategies at Strategy Analytics. “One of the main objectives of the Alliance is to shore up the mobile device support for LTE Broadcast. More important than the publicity, operators should take the lead to break the ‘no business therefore no device, no device therefore no business’ cycle. By embracing LTE Broadcast more seriously, operators will send a clear signal to the device makers, including Apple, that it is time they should bring the feature to a broader portfolio of their products.”

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