By Mae Kowalke
One of the challenges faced by mobile network service providers deploying 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) is using it to deliver popular multimedia content to a mass audience in the most efficient and effective manner. In the past, operators had two options: unicast or broadcast.
For those unfamiliar with the terms, below is a brief description of each:
- Unicast — the sending content to a single network destination, with a unique address. It is a one-to-one method of distribution. Traditionally, unicast has been when each individual recipient wanted or needed different content.
- Broadcast — as the name implies, is sending the same content to all possible destinations, e.g., it is a one-to-many or one-to-all method of distribution. The obvious downside of broadcast is that everyone receives identical content.
Recently, a new technology call evolved multimedia broadcast multicast service (eMBMS) entered the scene. It makes possible the efficient broadcasting of content only to interested recipients. An added attraction is that eMBMS is highly scalable. It uses only a fraction of the capacity compared with unicast. This gives operators the best of both worlds: the flexibility of unicast and the efficiency of broadcast.
The latter benefit of eMBMS is highlighted in a recent Alcatel-Lucent TechZine article, “Further Efficiencies with eMBMS.” Researchers RJ Vale, Network Architect for Alcatel-Lucent’s Corporate CTO Technology Advisory Group and Harish Viswanathan, CTEO Advisor on M2M and Devices at Alcatel-Lucent, not that while having the ability of broadcasting personalized content leverages the inherent capabilities to broadcasting:
“To increase this efficiency even further, near-live, perishable and pre-published content can be multicast to specified users during off-peak hours. The content is loaded into their mobile device’s flash memory for viewing (or other use) at a later time.”
In addition, it is noted that network operators that embrace application enablement through open APIs in combination with eMBMS and preloading have powerful tools for both creating new services and addressing the coming explosion of mobile data traffic in a manner that puts less stress on network loads and thereby reduces costs.
“These advantages allow Mobile Service Providers (MSPs) to offer optional low-priced bundles, on top of data plans, with usage quotas,” note Vale and Viswanathan. They added that, “A MSP could gain significant savings when even a small percentage of the content has been preloaded and is consumed by a large number of users during peak periods.”
Preloading content for eMBMS is not surprisingly best suited to data—such as advertisements, software driver updates, TV series installments, software patches, or daily news. The reason is that this information is time insensitive, available before its publish time, or is intended for time-shifted consumption.
As the ALU researchers state, “This content can be packaged as free or low-cost mobile services with an array of choices for consumption at a user’s convenience…For subscribers, the experience would be much like having access to unlimited content, while MSPs could get a higher yield from the bandwidth allocated to eMBMS.”
The potential applications are nearly endless. Some examples: coupon services, special restaurant deals, or deal-of-the-day mobile app offers. The full posting provides a lot of detail about business models and solution architectures for preloaded eMBMS deployments that should be considered by any mobile service provider seeking to leverage the effectiveness of the 4G LTE deployments and do so cost efficiently.