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TV body seeks attractive mobile operators for mutual action replays

Mobile TV? Don't laugh - it might actually work

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+Analysis TV on mobiles? Yes, you’ve heard that one before. It’s been one of the most persistent flops of the past fifteen years. But then so were mobile app stores until somebody, Apple, put enough pieces in place to make them work.

Without much fanfare, yesterday saw the launch of a new UK-based initiative, the Mobile Video Alliance (MVA) under the umbrella of DTVG, the digital TV industry standards group.

Founding member EE and its partner, data centre company Equinix, are enthusiastic about the potential.

The group's first task is to make some form of multicast (aka “one to many”) transmission – which is a necessity for efficient IP broadcast streaming – widely accepted.

MVA also plans to establish a testing centre for kit that supports the emerging standards – but stressed it hasn’t yet picked any technology. “They don’t want to choose a technology before they’ve understood the problem,” one source told us at the DTVG’s annual summit yesterday.

Sporting chances

However, one use case we heard sounds eminently plausible. Picture everyone inside a sports stadium able to watch replays of goals – or watch an incident from a different angle. This requires a modest investment in the cells but potentially a big reward. Operators could bundle in the service, while venues could "extend" their physical arena into a larger virtual one. It needs an intelligent network, though. In an intelligent network, the cells in the stadium would detect if more than one user was watching the same stream, then switch to multicast.

American giant Verizon has already demonstrated multicast broadcast over LTE – it calls it LTE Broadcast or LTE Multicast - although it uses its own mutant proprietary extensions to the eMBMS standards. It isn’t clear yet whether eMBMS or new standards will be required. With broadband operators like BT using multicast, the industry knows it needs to catch up.

Matthew Stagg, head of network strategy at EE, told the DGTV Summit that different industries needed to collaborate and share knowledge, which they hadn’t in the past.

“We don’t want to be a standards body like 3GPP,” he said, “but tech silos are doing innovation without understanding the effects for tech silos next door. We don’t understand the roadmaps for [content delivery networks]. You get technologies launched, at the same time, trying to meet the same ends, that make things worse rather than better,” he explained.

“Our customers just want to watch high-quality video; we just want to make sure they get that.”

HDMI was cited as a spec that had succeeded through collaboration. Nor was MVA some Trojan horse sent in to usurp Wi-Fi, said EE. In fact, many network vendors are working on bonding LTE and home Wi-Fi – a sensible thing to do in a near future where video is piped in over IP to lots of screens in a household.

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