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AT&T Uses College Football Championship to Test Broadcast Version of LTE

The technology streams video more efficiently over crowded airwaves.


Monday night’s game between Oregon and Ohio State isn’t just a test of a new playoff system to determine the best team in college football.

AT&T is also using the big game to test broadcasting video streams over LTE networks in a way to more efficiently use precious airwaves. At the game, AT&T will be offering various camera angles and replays to those in the stands who have a compatible phone.

Today, phones at big stadiums often become slow or unusable because of all the people trying to download and upload photos and video. Adding massive Wi-Fi networks has helped some, but so too could offering customers access to broadcast streams of video. Even where video replays are offered, they typically are streamed one at a time to each device that requests them — a far less efficient process.

At the game, AT&T is only using the technology to show a pair of live feeds to about 100 media members, but the technology holds the promise of sending video easily to everyone in the stadium, much as a TV station is able to broadcast to any number of homes that tune in via an antenna. In this case, AT&T is using Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 devices to receive the signal, thanks to special firmware from Qualcomm, broadcast equipment from Ericsson and an app from MobiTV.

There is no timetable for when AT&T might offer a similar LTE Broadcast service commercially.

“It’s really just a technology trial for us,” said Scott Mair, an AT&T senior VP who is at the game to oversee the effort.

AT&T is offering one data feed and two video streams, one from the ESPN control room and the other from the so-called Spider Cam that flies over the action on the field. The video itself isn’t full high-definition, but Mair said that the picture still looks remarkably clear on a small mobile device.

Verizon has previously tested LTE Broadcast at past Super Bowl and Indy 500 events. The company says it hopes to offer a mobile video service in the second half of this year, though it has not offered specifics.

But while Verizon tested the technology for use outside the stadium, AT&T is broadcasting video to those at the game.

Sending video is just one possible use, AT&T says.

“We see a promising future with this technology,” CTO John Donovan said in a blog post last week. “It could offer a variety of valuable future uses such as the ability to deliver software updates to not just smartphones, but also to the Internet of Things like connected cars and other devices, as well as new one-to-many commercial services for businesses.”

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