In one of three co-written articles about customer deployments, which Ericsson included in its latest Mobility Report (see separate item), it provided a glimpse of the progress of LTE-B, a technology long-forgotten in some respects, but just emerging in others.
Australia’s Telstra switched on LTE-B – based on the 4G Evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services or eMBMS standard – across its entire network in July 2018, as part of an end-to-end service streaming Australian Football League games, available free to Telstra mobile subscribers and a monthly fee for others.
One year on, results have emerged, showing video quality enhancements using multicast via LTE-B compared with unicast without LTE-B, with the latter experiencing inconsistent viewing experiences with fluctuations in video quality, while LTE-B users were delivered HD quality content at a sustained stream. As a result, Telstra claims LTE-B users viewed a stream more than 25% longer than viewers watching the same content on devices not compatible with LTE-B.
After at least three false dawns, mobile multicast is breaking through. Digging a bit deeper, Telstra observed that around 12% of traffic is now being carried via LTE-B to capable devices, in cells where LTE-B has been activated, which the telco says represents a tangible improvement in network efficiency as less capacity is used in the cell to carry this traffic.
Therefore, as more LTE-B-compatible devices join the network, it can be expected that efficiencies can be further improved within LTE-B-enabled cells.
Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report explains that LTE-B kicks in once a predetermined traffic threshold is reached. This is achieved using a feature called MBMS-operation-on-Demand (MooD) which dynamically activates or deactivates LTE-B based on certain parameters, such as the number of devices in an area streaming the same video content or accessing the same data stream, and when traffic levels reach a designated threshold. Ultimately, this improves network efficiency both in content delivery networks and in the RAN, while also improving coverage of high bit-rate services.
Speaking of high bit-rate services, emerging immersive video formats and applications such as VR, AR, UHD and 360-degree video were touched on briefly in the Mobility Report, cited as some of the main drivers for video traffic growth. Russian MNO MTS is cited as one operator with virtual reality on its roadmap, with its network evolution strategy targeting the realization of commercial products based on VR by between 2021 and 2022.