During this Sunday's Indy 500, Verizon Wireless, Ericsson and other tech companies will be focused less on the drivers and more on a racetrack demonstration of new wireless technology called LTE Multicast that would used for transmitting video to smartphones and tablets.
Verizon earlier this month showed for the first time in the U.S. that LTE Multicast could work over a commercial network -- its own LTE network.
Video cameras placed inside the cars and trackside will carry video to IndyCar teams for new perspectives on the action, incorporated with the race broadcast, Verizon said in a blog.
This year's Indy 500 LTE Multicast won't be seen by the general public, but the future for that possibility is wide open. There's little question Verizon has big plans for providing premium video content at a premium price over its nationwide LTE network to fans in a variety of sports venues and other settings.
Offering wireless video content has become an obsession with the nation's biggest carriers -- including Verizon and AT&T-- which are eager to find new areas of revenues. Both companies already work with the NFL to beef up Wi-Fi in stadiums, but the LTE scenario will extend the reach of LTE Multicast to areas outside of Wi-Fi's reach.
To show the variety of ways LTE Multicast can be used, Verizon blogged in January on the possibility of serving college students on satellite campuses with the ability to see a lecture from a professor or giving municipal governments the ability to reach citizens with important messages on a mobile device.
In the case of AT&T, its planned purchase of DirecTV for $48.5 billion is heavily focused on giving AT&T more control over video content and the 20 million customers DirecTV already has.
Popular events like the Indy 500 have big followings that can generate big revenues "and Verizon Wireless is trying to tap into that," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.
"Strategically, Verizon wants to get deeper into the content distribution business, and in this case, they are using LTE Multicast," added Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.
The technology behind LTE Multicast is fairly complex. It essentially tries to mimic what happens in a TV broadcast, so that everyone in the audience tunes into the same channel on their smartphones at the time of the event to watch it. There's no individual video stream to each device, but one universal stream that everyone equipped with the right technology can tap into. If the users tunes in late or drops out, that part of the video is missed, Gold said.
With the multicast concept, Verizon can significantly reduce the load on its network and keep video performance high, Gold noted.
With LTE Multicast, a specific channel of wireless spectrum is assigned to carry content, increasing efficiency. "It's spectrally efficient, so everyone has a great wireless experience," said Verizon spokeswoman Debra Lewis.
Ericsson's technology used in the Indy 500 demonstration is called LTE Broadcast. The company claims to be the only network equipment vendor that offers a comprehensive approach, although Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent and others are contenders.
Ericsson uses a combination of three new standards: Evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS), used to put broadcast/multicast on mobile networks; High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), a new compression standard that cuts in half the bandwidth required to transport video content when compared to MPEG-4; and MPEG Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG DASH), which simplifies and standardizes the way video is delivered to consumer devices.
Ericsson described its technology as a way for wireless carriers "to charge premium rates for premium content ... without fear of congestion or failure to deliver."
Ericsson also claims its LTE Broadcast technology can be used to enable delivery of content to a "virtually unlimited number of users simultaneously."
In an earlier use of LTE Multicast in February for the SuperBowl, Verizon relied on technology from Alcatel-Lucent rather than Ericsson.
It isn't clear how much customization of smartphones and tablets will be needed for Verizon to expand its LTE Multicast capability into future uses. At Sunday's Indy 500, Verizon said special Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphones with Multicast-ready chipsets, middleware and multimedia services from Qualcomm, will be used to view the video.
Also, demonstration tablets from Sequans, equipped with Expway middleware, will be used. Application development and delivery across multiple other devices will come from MobiTV.
This article, At Indy 500, Verizon races to offer premium video content on mobile devices, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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