Q&A: Comsys Mobile's Avi Sharon

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While high-definition content on mobile networks is a rarity today, that is likely to change as telcos move towards LTE and the so-called 4G or fourth generation mobile technologies that will allow carriers to offer incredibly fast data networks. The category four version of LTE, for example, would allow users to download content at 150 Megabytes per second. Many analysts expect operators to use those fat pipes to deploy converged services that will allow users to access HD content in cars and other locations outside the home on mobile devices. During the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, Comsys Mobile worked with Rohde & Schwarz to offer a live demonstration of a full HD video movie streaming over a LTE CAT4 data channel. Comsys director of LTE product marketing Avi Sharon talked to HD Update about the prospects for LTE technologies and what they might mean for high-def content in the mobile world. An edited transcript follows:

Q: Why did you use HD content for your demonstration in Barcelona?
We believe LTE is a 4G technology that will enable the carrier to provide a high-bandwidth IP-based wireless network. It will have a large through-put that will allow them to deliver HD content to mobile Internet devices, smart phone, multimedia players, routers, residential gateways and other entertainment systems and devices over wireless.
What we wanted to demonstrate in Barcelona with full HD video over LTE was to highlight the capability of our LTE products to deliver high data throughput over LTE. We believe that full high-definition video is the kind of application that will be very attractive with LTE.
In the LTE standard, there are five categories. Category four offers 150 Mbps on the downlink, which is a very big throughput, and on the uplink 50 Mbps. Because most of the companies were showing content on downlink mode, we wanted to show uplink mode and show that it would support a number of applications, such as a full HD conference call.

Q: It sounds like those speeds would also provide broadcasters and news organizations a way to deliver HD news content over LTE networks back to stations.
Yes. If you had such a wide channel with such a high throughput, you wouldn't even need in many cases to allocate a full channel to one user -- you could share it among users.
Second because you have the high throughput and low latency, you can deliver streaming video or any kind of application without being affected by poor quality of services. Today if you are going to use a 2G or 3G network, you might not get a very high quality service with low latency.
Additionally, 4G technologies -- and this is applicable for LTE and WiMAX -- are IP based. That will allow operators to simply use the whole network hierarchy and infrastructure because you can buy commodity devices. So in terms of capital and operational expenditures, it can simplify and reduce the cost of responding to the increased demand for data capacity from end users.
That is important because the social behavior of users is changing. They are using more video, more content that demands high throughput and better quality of services. More and more people are using the Internet to watch video when they are connected with a fixed line, DSL, cable modem, whatever. At the same time, more and more people are moving to full HDTVs. So in the future, this will change the expectations of all subscribers when they are out of the home. They will want to see the same quality of movies that they can see at home in HD.

Q: Are the mobile devices improving fast enough to be able to handle that better quality content?
Definitely. In the last three years or so the processors are becoming more sophisticated and able to process and decode the video. The processors in mobile devices are also using less power. The combination of better handsets or mobile devices with better processing power and the development of a very fat pipe will enable carrier to deliver very high-quality content in high-definition.

Q: How fast do you see these 4G networks being deployed?
I believe LTE is going to be available in a year or two, and by "available" I mean we will see early commercial product end to end.
Initially, we will see more devices on the bay station side. The chip sets on the mobile terminal side are still on the development stage. It is expected that sometime next year the first versions of those chip sets for LTE mobile terminals will be available.
I personally believe that we will start to see more commercial deployments sometime in 2011 and 2012 and that it would be revving up during 2013 and 2014.
Today, though, you can see some demonstrations and some field trials. It is being driven by the major operators, such as Vodafone, Verizon, China Mobile, T-Mobile and Orange. All of these guys are trying to get into this space and begin delivering high-definition content. Some of them are also trying get into fixed mobile convergence. In other words, they want to get to the point where they can offer the same services and user experience and perhaps even the same content in any environment where the subscriber might be during the day-at home, in the car, at work, or on the move via fixed line, cable TV, or wireless. The large carriers can do this because they are running both wireless and fixed line services.
This will have a very interesting impact on the future evolution of in car entertainment, IPTV, wireless technologies and HD content.
There are already some products that you can put on the back of a seat of a car so kids can watch a movie. With LTE those movies could be delivered wirelessly into the car. Or if you were driving, you could get some news. If you have enough space for a large display then you can deliver the experience of an HDTV set that is now in the living room into the car.

Q: Did you use MPEG-4 for your demonstration in Barcelona?
Yes. During the demonstration the throughput of the video obviously changes because of dynamics of what is going on in the frames. The throughput was changing dynamically between roughly 14 Megabytes per second up to 19 to 20 Megabytes per second for the one we showed.
In general, we can reach up to 50 Megabytes per second on the uplink so that means we can put another video stream into the channel.