Telstra tests LTE Broadcast on live network: A solution to the capacity crunch?

Telstra, the primary Australian mobile carrier, has achieved what it calls a world first by successfully trialling LTE Broadcast on its network, in partnership with Ericsson.

This has huge potential for the future of mobile networks, as with more and more data being pushed out onto ever increasing numbers of devices, network capacity cannot hold forever.

The future of LTE and the capacity crunch is a burning issue in the industry, yet Ericsson’s LTE Broadcast solution attempts to solve this by only sending out a single stream of data to multiple users.

“Many customers often want the same content delivered to their mobile phone at the same time,” an online post from Telstra notes. “Traditionally, if 100 people in a mobile network cell area wanted this content, we would send out 100 different streams of data – which uses a lot of network capacity.

“Through our LTE Broadcast trial, we have today demonstrated that it’s possible to use one stream of data, to deliver the same content to multiple users – keeping the rest of the network free for other customers,” Telstra adds.

This theory has traditionally been employed by TV providers who want to use one stream to transmit to multiple television sets – but as the Australian telco admits, it’s still very much in the embryonic stages.

For Ericsson, however, the benefits for mobile operators are tangible.

“LTE Broadcast provides the ability to send the same content simultaneously to a very large number of devices in a target area,” said Thomas Noren, Ericsson vice president and head of project area radio in a statement.

“Mobile operators can use this ability and monetise their media and network assets for new services. Revenue generation and cost-saving opportunities are significant and provide an attractive value proposition for mobile operators,” he added.

The trials aren’t going to be public-facing just yet, as there’s still the barrier of no LTE Broadcast-ready handsets on the market. The trial itself involved four TV channels being transmitted to eight handsets provided by Qualcomm.

And as Total Telecom revealed last week, Telstra “don’t have commitments to put [LTE Broadcast] into service any time in the near future.”

As a result, this news remains on the side of hypothetical rather than practical. Yet once solidified test figures are in, and the hype becomes reality, expect vendors to push models which carry the LTE Broadcast standard – and perhaps take a firing shot at the squeezed network capacities.

What do you make of the result, and its future in relation to LTE? Find out about these issues facing the industry and more at Telecoms Tech World, on 26-27 November in London.

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