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Telstra considers LTE-Broadcast for software updates

Telstra has conducted a world-first trial of LTE-Broadcast, which the company says can be used to reduce congestion on the network when software updates are pushed out.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

In what Telstra is calling a world first, the company has tested out LTE-Broadcast over its network between Sydney and Melbourne.

The company has long been looking at ways to reduce congestion on its 4G LTE network, which now has 3.2 million devices connected. LTE-B was first outed as an option in February as a way of delivering identical content to multiple users, such as video or software updates.

A trial of LTE-B between the company's Parramatta lab and its Melbourne office in Docklands was tested on Telstra's network on the 2100MHz frequency. The company partnered with network vendor Ericsson to test out the broadcast solution, and worked with Qualcomm to ensure it had eight handsets that were capable of receiving content via LTE-B.

Telstra's acting director of wireless network engineering Channa Seneviratne told ZDNet that the result saw four BigPond TV channels broadcast over the LTE network.

"As a user, what you would see initially was a mosaic of four different BigPond TV channels, and then you could select one of the four. The four we were transmitting was BigPond Music, the horse racing channel, AFL, and Sports Fan," he said.

He said that there is no set speed for the content, and that even on 3Mbps, a user would still get a "very good experience" using LTE-B. Because it was broadcast, the number of handsets ultimately had no impact on the performance of the network.

"You could have 100 handsets. Any number of receivers receiving that signal can display that content. That's the beauty of using this broadcast technology," Seneviratne said.

Telstra enabled IPv6 multicast in its network core for the trial, which was a first for Telstra.

Seneviratne said that video is the most obvious use for the LTE-B technology, but said that the company would look for other uses, including software updates.

"What we want to do is to explore smarter ways to manage our network resources. In particular, if you think about users who access the same piece of content multiple times, in a particular location, that's inefficient. They're tying up 100 different unicast streams," he said.

"One of the things we're thinking about is software updates. We chew up a lot of network resources doing software updates, and ideally, it would be great if we could do all our software updates in the wee hours and broadcast to all the different types of handsets, and they automatically get updated at 1am or 2am in the morning."

Following the successful trial in Melbourne, Telstra is looking to conduct additional trials in its Experience Centres in Sydney and Melbourne, and will look to get more handset manufacturers onboard in developing devices that can work with LTE-B. The company is already working with Samsung to get some Note III tablets in the next few months that can work with LTE-B.

"The reason for doing this trial is for also influencing our vendors and influencing the ecosystem."

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