Verizon Wireless has set up shop in New York City this week to demonstrate LTE Multicast, a technique that’s designed to beam live TV feeds wirelessly to smartphones and tablets without gobbling up all of the wireless network’s bandwidth.
Instead of delivering a bunch of bandwidth-eating unicast video streams, the multicast approach carves out a dedicated slice of the LTE spectrum to fit in a nailed-up stream of the live event that, in turn, can be captured by multiple devices that are connected to the cell site.
Verizon Wireless is showing off a test LTE Multicast network at the Verizon Power House facility at Bryant Park that is feeding live video to Samsung Galaxy Note 3 tablets that are outfitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and Sequans chips matched with middleware from Expway that enables the multicast capability. According to Verizon Wireless, the demo is also being powered by encoders from Thomson and an app developed by MobiTV. Alcatel Lucent is supplying the underlying 4G LTE network equipment.
Smartphones and tablets that can support LTE Multicast aren’t available on the open market yet. Verizon expects to have its LTE network, which has been rolled out to more than 500 markets and 305 million points of presence, upgraded for multicast by the third quarter of 2014, according to Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Debi Lewis.
For the LTE Multicast demo, Verizon Wireless is showing a live feed of the NFL Network, on-demand content from the league, including highlights from last year’s championship game, and complementing that with Twitter feeds and other integrated data. On Sunday (February 2), the on-site demo will flip over to a live stream – again, delivered via LTE Multicast -- of the big game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
Lewis said Verizon Wireless is in talks with other device manufactures and content partners about how to develop packages and services that can take advantage of the coming multicast capabilities. She added that the company is also exploring a variety of use cases for LTE Multicast, including ways to deliver multiple video feeds at the site of live sporting events.
Verizon has not identified how its FiOS TV service might eventually be tied into the coming LTE Multicast-enabled Verizon Wireless network. However, Verizon Communications has said it expects its LTE network will play a role in its pending acquisition of Intel Media’s OnCue assets, which will be used to accelerate FiOS TV’s IPTV upgrade plans.