MWC 2018: Telstra using AFL app for LTE-B launch

LTE-Broadcast will see a wide-scale launch in 2018 off the back of Telstra's AFL app, with the telco also pushing mass software downloads and emergency services use cases for the technology.

Telstra and Ericsson will continue pushing LTE-Broadcast in 2018, with the telco's COO Robyn Denholm saying it will be using its AFL app for the wide-scale commercial launch of LTE-B in Australia this year.

Speaking ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on Sunday, Denholm called Telstra a "big proponent" of LTE-B globally.

"We're now starting to see some very prominent-name device makers actually start to use the protocol in their devices," she said.

Telstra MD of Networks Mike Wright said there will be an LTE-B user group and alliance meeting this week during MWC, with Australia in a "unique position" with the technology thanks to the popularity of its AFL app, which has so far seen 1.5 million downloads.

As such, Telstra is now fully set on LTE-B, according to Wright: It has the broadcast-enabled chipsets from Qualcomm; the device software that sits between the chip and the application, such as the AFL app; and the devices.

"We've got a key device -- a couple of devices, one existing in the market and another high-profile one that you'll hear about probably later in the next 24 hours -- ready to be brought to market with the next AFL app, which we'll be able to now use to deliver LTE-Broadcast," Wright said.

"That is the beginning of the story, and the beauty of LTE-Broadcast is it starts with this sort of streaming case and we can now build on it."

Telstra is looking to build on mass software downloads and emergency services use cases for LTE-B, with Wright telling ZDNet that thanks to its multicast operation on demand (MooD) technology, the barrier to the business case has been lowered.

"As an industry, we didn't do ourselves any favours originally, because the engineers got very excited about that it could carry a whole stadium. But when a stadium's only running for a couple of hours a week, when you go the finance people, it's really hard to get the business case up," he told ZDNet at MWC.

"And the early phases of LTE-B had to set aside a bit of the network permanently to broadcast; the beauty of MooD now is essentially, LTE-B doesn't have to go on until people want to use it. So you can use it just as a normal network, and as soon as a couple of people in an area start to use a network, it opens itself up and then it can have any infinite uses.

"MooD and session continuity was really the transformational technology that lowered the business case to make itself viable for us and other operators to use."

Denholm told ZDNet that Telstra's mobile network traffic now peaks whenever multiple AFL games are on at the same time, with video streaming "a very important part of the Australian ecosystem".

"It can really show us how to push the network and use technologies to create efficiency from the network point as well, and so I think that's part of the story we need to make sure it gets out there," she said.

Read also: MWC 2018: Telstra's 5G rollout plan for 2019

Ericsson ANZ head Emilio Romeo also agreed that 2018 will be the year of LTE-Broadcast, telling ZDNet that he sees a lot of value in the technology.

He added that it is gaining momentum worldwide -- although not as quickly as Ericsson had hoped -- particularly for sporting broadcasts by carriers, but also for mass software downloads from OTT players.

At the end of last year, Wright had confirmed that Telstra was on track to enable the LTE-B capability across its entire mobile network during 2018, after initially announcing the project with Ericsson a year ago at MWC 2017.

Telstra had in December announced implementing MooD technology, which shifts customers between unicast and broadcast transmissions depending on load, with network cells now only configured for LTE-B when there are several users viewing the same content.

Telstra combined MooD with its service continuity technology, which Wright said ensures mobile customers are "seamlessly" shifted on and off the LTE-B-configured cells.

Speaking on Telstra's ongoing LTE-B deployment in October, Wright told ZDNet that the software has been in the telco's network undergoing testing throughout 2017.

Telstra has also demonstrated that it is possible to deliver LTE-B push-to-talk calls over its live 4G network using its commercial LTE Advanced Network for Emergency Services (LANES) solution.

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