EE, the BBC, Qualcomm Technologies and Huawei are collaborating to explore the role that 4G can play in the future of broadcasting. The trial technology, which will be demonstrated on a dedicated stand at the BBC R&D Future of Broadcasting Showcase in the Glasgow Science Centre from 24 July to 3 August, is designed to help deliver high-quality, uninterrupted live streaming to mobile devices, with no buffering.
Live BBC content will be streamed using eMBMS (evolved multimedia broadcast and multicast service), the broadcast mode of LTE. Those attending the howcase in Glasgow will be able to watch the footage on their mobile devices via 4G broadcast.
Huawei is providing the network equipment, running over the EE network, with Qualcomm Technologies supplying Qualcomm Snapdragon processors with broadcast middleware and an associated SDK (software development kit) for application development. The goal is to demonstrate the benefits that multicast 4G broadcast can offer compared with unicast steaming.
To help ensure that the trial is done in as accurate an environment as possible, various steps are being taken. For example, the network will be heavily loaded to represent a real-world scenario for popular live media. Smartphones on the stand will also be streaming the same live content over unicast to show the difference between unicast and the 4G broadcast on show.
“Using eMBMS to deliver TV over 4G is an incredible demonstration of the capabilities of LTE,” said EE CTO Fotis Karonis. “The quality of the network that we’ve built with Huawei offers an amazing experience for consumers, and an amazing opportunity for broadcasters to more efficiently deliver their most popular content to multiple mobile users.”
Kevin Tao, president of Huawei Western European Region, said: “This showcase is an exciting moment for EE, the BBC, Qualcomm Technologies and Huawei. 4G is designed with the potential to be a far more efficient way of delivering live content for broadcasters which will make the act of watching live TV much smoother with no interruptions. As a business that focuses on innovation, our aim is to push technological boundaries together with our customers and partners – for broadcast that time is now.”
“Video continues to be a big part of mobile traffic growth, and consumers demand access to content anytime and anywhere,” said Raj Talluri, vice president of product management, Qualcomm Technologies.
“4G Broadcast is designed to not only deliver high quality live video content under challenging network conditions, but also enhance the fan experience by providing an interactive view of the live action. We are excited to help demonstrate the transformative impact of 4G broadcast in Glasgow.”
How eMBMS works
eMBMS is a broadcast/multicast technology that is designed to that give mobile network operators a more efficient and cost-effective means of sending popular content to a large number of customers simultaneously over an existing 4G/LTE network.
It is designed so it does not require additional frequency spectrum, as it flexibly shares the same spectrum with content delivery to individual (unicast) users in the network as required. Unlike unicast, broadcast is designed to continue delivering the content with consistent quality as the number of users increases, without adding network capacity and spectrum bandwidth.
The live content for the trial is in MPEG-DASH (dynamic adaptive streaming over HTTP) format provided by the BBC, sent over an IP link to a Huawei server situated within the EE test labs. The content is then encapsulated within multicast and sent to base stations (eNodeBs), one of which is situated within the showcase at the Glasgow Science Centre where it is transmitted on 2.6GHz spectrum.
An application written by BBC R&D, supported by Qualcomm Technologies’ 4G broadcast solution comprising of highly optimised LTE broadcast middleware and a Snapdragon 800 processor with an integrated Qualcomm Gobi modem by Qualcomm Technologies, is then used to display and navigate the live streams on handsets. This can be connected to the iPlayer to support the integration of unicast on-demand content with live broadcast streams.