3GPP enhances eMBMS, is it in time to save LTE-B?

Last week we reported that the LTE-Broadcast Alliance was becoming frustrated by slow progress in uptake of its technology for commercial broadcast, multicast or over-the-air update services. Its members may be cheered by the latest specifications from 3GPP, which has just published ‘Enhanced Television Services over eMBMS’, part of Release 14.

The additions to eMBMS, the standard which underpins LTE-B, aim to support extended
radio broadcast range and free-to-air services, and can deliver TV both to mobile devices and stationary TVs to encourage multiscreen and quad play strategies for MNOs.

According to 3GPP, the latest Release 14 specs will enable MNOs to offer additional capabilities and control to broadcasters and content providers, which in turn could encourage these parties to work together as mobile networks become an increasingly important medium for video viewing, and move to support higher definition levels and more interactivity.

The new features promise improved support for TV services to stationary as well as mobile devices as well as unicast. Several modifications have been made to improve the eMBMS radio interface’s efficiency and flexibility, and to enhance the flexibility of the system architecture and media formats to support more options for content providers, broadcasters and MNOS.

Specifics include:
• Support for larger Inter-Site Distance (ISD)at high spectral efficiency, which allows a wider range of device types to be accommodated, including rooftop or car-mounted antennas.
• Dedicated or mixed eMBMS carriers, which will facilitate combined unicast and broadcast services over a single carrier, to boost broadcast resource allocation to almost 100%.
• New MBSFN sub-frame type to reduce overhead in transmissions.
• Shared eMBMS Broadcast, enabling operators to aggregate their networks into a shared content distribution platform, which can avoid the wastage of transmitting the same content at the same time over different networks.
• A receive-only mode enables devices without a SIM card or subscription, such as TV sets, to access a subset of the eMBMS TV services. One application of receive-only mode is to enable free-to-air content broadcast over eMBMS, enabling MNOs to comply with public broadcasting requirements where those are in force.

The latest 3GPP specifications also operate with the European Union’s decision on the 470-790 MHz spectrum range.