AT&T tackles LTE-Broadcast at college football championship

On Monday we didn’t just see the debut of the first College Football Playoff Championship Game. We also witnessed the first appearance of AT&T’s new LTE-Broadcast technology, which uses the 4G network to send the same content to multiple devices simultaneously.

While the Oregon Ducks got crushed by the Ohio State Buckeyes at [company]AT&T[/company] Stadium at Arlington, Ma Bell used its hometown advantage to run a limited trial of the new technology. AT&T and partner [company]MobiTV[/company] broadcast two ESPN video streams from the game showing replays from different angles as well as a data stream that delivered a constantly updating feed of stats and trivia, according to FierceWireless.

AT&T sent those streams from its cellsites in and around the stadium, which network supplier [company]Ericsson[/company] upgraded for the event. But as with Verizon’s demos at the Super Bowl last year, regular AT&T customers couldn’t access them as their phones don’t yet support LTE-Broadcast technology. Instead AT&T, [company]Qualcomm[/company] and [company]Samsung[/company] rigged up a few dozen Galaxy Note 3 devices with the necessary firmware to receive the multicast signal and demoed them at the event. LTE-Broadcast, however, is part of the LTE standard so future smartphones and tablets should support the technology natively.

AT&T LTE-Broadcast graphic

So why mess around with LTE-broadcast when 4G networks are perfectly capable of delivering the same content over individual streams to today’s devices? It’s a much more efficient way to deliver high-bandwidth content to masses of people in the same place.

Consequently big events like football games are the ideal use case. Everyone wants to see the replay of that touchdown. Instead of thousand devices requesting the same content as individual streams from the same few cell towers – overloading the network in the process – the LTE-Broadcast network sends it as a single transmission. Everyone sees a high-quality video and the network uses only a fraction of its overall bandwidth.