BBC 4G broadcast research wins support of Huawei and EE

BBC Research and Development has teamed up with Huawei and EE to explore the role of 4G mobile networking in the future of broadcasting

Network supplier Huawei, along with mobile operator EE, are to assist the BBC in exploring and trialing the potential of 4G networks in the future of broadcasting, during the Commonwealth Games, which begins on 23 July.

The BBC plans to stream high quality, uninterrupted live content using Evolved Multimedia Broadcast and Multicast Service (eMBMS) – the broadcast mode of LTE - over the EE network using Huawei networking hardware. Qualcomm Technologies has also come on board to supply its Snapdragon processors with broadcast middleware and an SDK (software development kit) for app development.

The goal is to show off the benefits of Multicast 4G broadcasting, versus traditional Unicast streaming.

EMBMS is a broadcast/multicast technology designed to give mobile network operators a more efficient and cost-effective means of sending content to large numbers of customers over 4G without needing any additional frequency spectrum, by flexibly sharing the same spectrum for content delivery to other users as needed. This means that, unlike unicast, it continues to deliver content at consistent quality levels as viewer numbers increase.

The BBC will provide live content in Mpeg-Dash format over an IP link to Huawei servers at EE’s test lab. This will be encapsulated in multicast to be sent to a base station, where it will be transmitted on the 2.6GHz spectrum.

An application produced by BBC R&D and supported by Qualcomm will then be used to display and navigate live streams on smartphone handsets.

The broadcasts will be available for the public to view on 4G mobile devices at a BBC R&D showcase in Glasgow. The aim is to show off the benefits of multicast 4G broadcasting, versus traditional unicast streaming.

The participants will also be challenging themselves to reproduce the strains and stresses of the wider mobile infrastructure by heavily loading the network to represent a more realistic real-world scenario. Smartphones on the BBC’s stand at the showcase will also be streaming the same content over unicast, to better demonstrate the differences between unicast and 4G.

“Using eMBMS to deliver TV over 4G is an incredible demonstration of the capabilities of LTE,” said EE CTO Fotis Karonis.

“The quality of the network that we’ve built with Huawei offers an amazing experience for consumers, and an amazing opportunity for broadcasters to more efficiently deliver their most popular content to multiple mobile users.”

Kevin Tao, president of Huawei Western European Region, added: “This showcase is an exciting moment for EE, the BBC, Qualcomm Technologies and Huawei. 4G is designed with the potential to be a far more efficient way of delivering live content for broadcasters which will make the act of watching live TV much smoother with no interruptions. As a business that focuses on innovation, our aim is to push technological boundaries together with our customers and partners –  for broadcast that time is now.”

The BBC will also be using the Commonwealth Games to conduct trials of Ultra-High Definition (UHD) broadcasting over an IP network, with support from Virgin Media Business and Jisc.

The BBC R&D Future of Broadcasting Showcase will be taking place at the Glasgow Science Centre between 24 July and 3 August.

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