EE plans to begin trialling LTE Broadcast services in the immediate future with a view to a commercial rollout from around 2016, depending on the availability of devices.
The U.K. mobile operator believes there is revenue to be had from LTE Broadcast, but in the early stages the impetus for operators to deploy the technology will stem from network congestion.
EE will demonstrate the technology with a content provider during a live sporting event in the third quarter of the year, said Matt Stagg, senior manager of network strategy at EE, speaking at a Qualcomm event in London on Wednesday. The first quarter of 2015 will bring a stadium trial with 4K content, followed by a trial on a live network in Q4 next year, he said. Commercial deployments will start in 2016, most likely beginning with stadiums.
"I can see [those dates] moving back unless we get the backing," Stagg warned. The timelines are subject to issues outside of EE's control, "but not outside our sphere of influence," he noted, such as the devices space.
"We're never going to get anywhere with LTE Broadcast unless we have the devices," Stagg said.
However, he noted that with larger operators such as Verizon and China Mobile starting to look at LTE Broadcast, and support from players like Qualcomm, "people are starting to listen."
LTE Broadcast will facilitate some value-added services; in a sports stadium, for example, it can enable users to watch the game from different camera angles and see action replays. But the revenues they could generate for operators could be some way off. First of all, the telcos will look to use LTE Broadcast to ease network congestion, in many cases caused by live sporting events that create data traffic peaks.
"The only thing we can do to manage live sports in a mobile network is to broadcast them," Stagg said.
Stadium deployments will come first, then in the 2016-2017 timeframe operators will start rolling out LTE Broadcast to make better use of their spectrum in the macro network, he predicted.
However, there will be other monetisation opportunities in the longer term.
One potential model could see a mobile