Study questions case for broadcasting TV over LTE networks

European Broadcasting Union report into viability of broadcasting TV content over LTE networks says there are still technical issues to be addressed and concerns remain over costs

Study questions case for broadcasting TV over LTE networks

A new study by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) reports that free-to-air delivery of TV content via LTE networks using eMBMS (evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services) is achievable in principle, but broadcasters remain concerned that delivery costs may be significantly higher than current distribution costs.

The EBU report noted that costs are a crucial factor that define the suitability of a system for the distribution of TV programmes, in particular if LTE were to be considered as a replacement of the current DTT (digital terrestrial TV) networks using DVB (digital video broadcasting) technology.

The report said: ‘Whilst this study has identified the main elements of a cost model, detailed cost calculations have not been performed. Broadcasters remain concerned that the delivery costs over LTE networks may be significantly higher than the current costs of TV distribution.’

The EBU acknowledged that the mobile networks could cut delivery costs over LTE by using an ‘efficient combination of unicast and eMBMS capabilities and as a result of economies of scale that could be achieved’. However, this has not been investigated in detail and so the EBU has said that there is insufficient available evidence to draw any conclusions on the issue of costs at the moment.

The EBU Technical Report 027, Delivery of Broadcast Content over LTE networks, set out to examine the possibility of delivering broadcast content and services over LTE networks.

The report presents the outcome of the first-ever jointly conducted study by broadcasters and the mobile industry (equipment manufacturers, but not mobile network operators) focusing on the capability of a mobile broadband technology to enable the use cases that are important to broadcasters, for example watching linear TV on a tablet either at home or on the move.

This initial study provides the essential technical information about the capabilities and performance of the LTE eMBMS system with a focus on broadcasters’ requirements, in particular, the possibility to deliver services free-to-air which is very important to EBU members.

From a technical point of view, the examined use cases could in principle be enabled by LTE eMBMS, but the EBU noted that further technological development is still required.

However, the report recognises that non-technical aspects such as operational scenarios, regulatory conditions, business models, and costs, need to be better understood before any conclusion on the viability of a large scale delivery of broadcast content over LTE can be drawn. These elements have not been studied in depth, but will be addressed in the follow-up work of the EBU project group CTN-Mobile.

The EBU concluded that LTE could be a useful complement to the broadcast distribution platforms. However, it said is not realistic to expect that LTE will become a viable alternative to broadcast distribution, including terrestrial TV networks, in the foreseeable future. ‘The implementation of an LTE network for a large scale TV distribution is not envisaged in the short term,’ it said.

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