Introduction

BBC Research & Development, in collaboration with EE, Huawei and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., is demonstrating 4G Broadcast at its public Commonwealth Games Showcase in the Glasgow Science Centre.

What we're doing

People increasingly expect BBC content to be available whenever and wherever they happen to be, but watching video on the move via apps such as iPlayer puts great demand on the mobile network, even with the arrival of 4G.

The more users try to consume data in one specific area, the more traffic has to be handled by the cell. Ultimately it can become congested and users could start to experience delays and buffering.

One way to help tackle network congestion might be to use 4G Broadcast.

Imagine a group of users wishing to follow live coverage of the Commonwealth Games. Rather than establishing an individual connection to every user, the cell emits a single broadcast of the data, to which any user can connect. This results in a big reduction in congestion, because the cell does not need to re-transmit a copy to every individual user.

We’re using LTE eMBMS (a broadcast mode already defined in the current 4G specifications) to broadcast live TV streams from the Commonwealth Games to handsets. By broadcasting the content, we can deliver the pictures and sound in a consistent quality, without the re-buffering and resultant freezing that can affect conventional streaming over mobile networks at times of congestion.

Our 4G Congestion Meter enables you to see how congestion is affecting the mobile network in realtime and allows us to visualise how 4G Broadcast could help enhance the user experience.

This demo is part of a technical trial in partnership with EE, Huawei and Qualcomm, to investigate how this 4G Broadcast technology works in practice and to define the possible benefits for users. It is part of a wider strand of work by BBC R&D looking at broadcasting to mobiles to investigate how the technology could work across all mobile networks.

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How it works

The demonstration shows a complete end to end chain, with BBC R&D providing live content for the trial in MPEG-DASH format. This is sent over an IP link to a Huawei server situated within EE’s test labs. The content is then encapsulated within multicast and sent to base stations (eNodeBs), one of which is situated within the showcase at the Glasgow Science Centre where it is transmitted on 2.6 GHz spectrum.

An application written by BBC R&D, based on Qualcomm middleware, is then used to display and navigate the live streams on handsets. This can be connected to the iPlayer to enable the integration of unicast on-demand content with live broadcast streams.

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