See that antenna up there on the Korean LG G3? It’s for TV streaming. We don’t have it here in the US, but we could sometime next year. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association has issued a new report that says sixteen wireless carriers in 13 countries are testing LTE Multicast, which will bring us live video over the air, at a significant decrease in capacity for wireless operators.
LTE Multicast is a way for carriers to stream video to multiple subscribers at the same time, over LTE. Current streaming standards require unicast streaming, that is, or a one-to-one video stream that is pretty taxing on bandwidth capacity. Multicast will let help with these capacity issues, as it relieves some of the pressure on the precious bandwidth that carriers don’t have enough of. Think about live sporting events like the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup Playoffs, or NBA Championship. LTE Multicast could allow for major events like those to be streamed to subscribers over a wireless network. It’s a pretty big deal.
The technology is still really new. Only KT Corp. in South Korea has rolled out a commercial version of LTE Multicast. South Koreans have great streaming TV service right to their cell phones. KT Corp. rolled out their Multicast network back in January. They’re still the only carrier in the world to make it available to their customers, but it won’t be that way for long. Verizon and AT&T here in the US are testing it, and are planning to roll it out sometime next year. EE is testing it in the UK, and Vodafone Germany is testing it too. Wireless operators in China, France, Australia, India, Germany, Netherlands, Philippines, Singapore, Portugal, UAE, South Korea, UK, and the US are all in some stages of LTE Multicast testing, with some if not all expected to roll it out in 2015.
The LTE Multicast standard will need a lot more support before it will take hold with consumers, but it does add significant benefit to carriers. We just have to find ways to use it. With licensing laws and restrictions being what they are, we’d probably be limited to broadcasts of additional video and content in stadiums while games are taking place, and in similar situations. It’s a pretty limited scope, one that telecoms might not find profitable.