3GPP has defined in Release 14 the new eMBMS system, whose characteristics are well aligned to the technical requirements coming from the broadcast sector for TV services. This paves the way to allowing broadcasters and content aggregators to deliver mobile TV content over cooperative broadcast High Power High Tower and mobile Low Power Low Tower network infrastructures, using a converging broadcast 3GPP technology.
In a longer term perspective, in the 2020 decade, might this full-IP convergent technology become a candidate successor of DVB-T2 (or ATSC or ISDB-T) also for Digital Terrestrial Television home services?
Is there a technical and business case for converging fixed and mobile TV on the same networks and technologies?
The paper investigates the performance of 3GPP Release 14 in theoretical, regular networks and in a real area around Turin (Italy), trying to give a technical background to answer the above strategic questions.
In recent years, the mobile communications sector has been undergoing an impressive growth in data traffic, due to the increasing demand for high quality and bandwidth-hungry mobile multimedia services, a significant portion of which is identifiable with high quality video clips, while live broadcast television distribution still remains limited, because of the monthly data caps in the billing profiles.
Consequently, mobile operators are continuously making their networks more efficient by investing in new generations of mobile technology (3G, 4G, and 5G in the near future) and in denser networks. Mobile networks are primarily conceived for two-way and one-to-one services (i.e. unicast); they can deliver video services, as short-form clips, generally with limited quality of service (QoS), on a best effort basis.
However, the unicast approach for live events (requiring a multiplication of the same TV content for each connected user) seriously puts under strain mobile networks, especially during peak traffic periods. 3G and 4G standards have been extended by a multicast specification (MBMS, Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service, and eMBMS, the evolved version), able to deliver the same TV content to an unlimited number of users, without duplication of the same video bitstream as it happens for unicast, thus using the lowest amount of spectral resources.
The use case considered by mobile network operators was the provision of live video events (sport, concerts) to multiple viewers in a specific area, temporarily allocating part of the cellular mobile network capacity to this multicast service, while another part of the capacity is allocated to unicast broadband multimedia. This use-case will be named in the following as “event-TV”.