Telstra says it has switched on LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B) technology in its mobile network nationwide – which means customers using Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 devices can watch Australian football in HD.
Telstra has been testing LTE-B for quite some time. The 3GPP-standardized technology enables LTE operators to broadcast the same content to many users simultaneously. While live video is the most commonly cited use case for LTE-B, it can also be used for things like simultaneous over-the-air handset firmware upgrades or emergency push-to-talk voice communications, for example.
That said, Telstra is leveraging the success of its streaming video apps for AFL, NRL and Netball to promote LTE-B, although for now only the AFL app has been integrated with the technology, which is delivering better quality video and audio experience for broadcast content, even in high traffic areas, said group managing director of networks Mike Wright.
“We are now streaming live sports content to a massive base of around 1.2 million devices, and sports fans consume 37 million minutes of live content over our apps on any given weekend,” said group managing director of networks Mike Wright. “This season we’ve seen an overall 58% increase in customers streaming games. In some instances, more than twice the number of customers have streamed, compared to the same clash last year.”
At a live demonstration in Sydney, over 100 Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 devices were on display showing simultaneous HD content from the AFL Live Official app using LTE-B. At the same time, a second batch of devices delivering the content by conventional unicast showed how normal networks can be saturated with demand leading to lower quality and stalling of content.
“Video streaming is transforming the way we consume entertainment, including how we watch sport. Today’s LTE-B demonstration highlights the improved quality and enhanced video and audio experience for customers watching live and real time content. And while usage is steadily growing, it’s clear that key moments in a game, and snacking on games, is the key usage trend we see on mobile,” Wright said. “The popularity of these apps make them a prime use case for LTE-B.
Wright also said weekend traffic from the AFL app on Telstra’s network has grown three fold since 2016 and has peaked this year at 143 Gbps second – which would represent the entire network capacity of some wireless networks in the world.
“One of the biggest challenges for mobile network operators around the world is how to manage the ever growing demand for data and video. LTE-B is key part of the solution – not only does it improve network efficiency, but more importantly improves the customer experience by delivering an enhanced streaming experience,” he said.
Telstra partnered with Ericsson and Samsung for its LTE-B deployment, which is the first such network in Australia and one of the first anywhere else. According to the latest figures from the GSA (March 2018), just 39 operators are investing in, trialing or demoing LTE-B, while only a handful – including KT, Verizon, China Unicom and to a limited extent Reliance Jio – have launched commercial services.