Thursday, October 10, 2013

Media: "LTE Broadcast" - The Next
Hyped Broadcasting Challenger

Broadcasting in Norway. 

What is seemingly the best reason to delay a decisions? By refering to something better, often a technology, that is in the process of being developed. Or at least, in the process of being planned.

I hear such lame, or should I say misinformed, excuses way too often.

- OK, so the internet can't reach a million radio listeners at the same time, but we have someone working on it.

Yeah, right. Someone is also working on creating peace in the Middle East. That doesn't mean that they will succeed anytime soon. Unfortunately.

Although, as opposed to in the Middle East, there is already a solution. The technology even works perfectly. For distribution of live content, it is called broadcasting. For radio the de facto standard is called DAB+, for mobile TV it is called DMB (both are part of Eureka-147, if you're really into it).

Some people still claim that they can solve everything through 4G, or LTE Broadcast, a technology developed by Ericsson. It is multicast that is based on eMBMS (evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service). Ericsson describe it as "an efficient point-to-multipoint (PMP) distribution feature".

What it means? It means that it is is not real broadcasting.

Let's quote one of their examples:

"In an Olympic final, with 10 percent of subscribers watching the 800kbps live video streaming, the traffic payload would have reached more than 250TB. Assuming 30 percent of the viewers were using eMBMS-capable devices and connecting to broadcast channel, there would have been 75TB off-loaded from the network. The saved bandwidth could have been used to provide other telephony or data services, which equals more than 22 billion web page views or more than 800 million song downloads."

To sum up, if you use LTE Broadcast:
LTE Broadcast credited offload to the LTE network: 75TB
Saved bandwidth: 22 billion web page views

How about if you used real broadcasting?
DAB+/DMB credited offload to the LTE network: 250TB
Saved bandwidth: 73 billion web page views

Of course the content would still be distributed, but via a separate broadcasting network that covers much more of a country than LTE ever will. An LTE network would require 38,500 (thirtyeightthousandfivehundred) transmitters to cover the 31,000 square kilometers of the Netherlands, according to TNO. A DAB+ network would require 30 (thirty) transmitters to do the same. Now, imagine a country that is bigger and slightly less flat than Holland.

A real broadcasting solution will not cost the MNO any bandwidth, either. The MNO would in other words be capable of providing a lot better internet services to everyone, as the live broadcast would not take away any bandwidth and slow internet services down.

Digitalization of radio in Europe and beyond
Of course, this isn't the complete story. European and other broadcasters, with governmental backing, are in the process of performing the biggest transition in radio history; To go from analogue radio via FM to digital radio via DAB+ (of which DMB is also a part of the standard). Robust networks with good coverage have been built, and are being expanded. Coverage of between 90-99.9% is being planned in over 40 countries, and counting. It is not a question whether it can be done via LTE Broadcast, it is about having an independent, reliable and free to air distribution platform that can also be used in emergencies.

Radio is extremely important in Europe. Average listening minutes per user per day range from 90 to 310 minutes. Threehundredandten minutes! That is over five hours per day. In The Czech Republic.

FM is outdated, costly and restricts competition. Broadcasted radio is in most European countries also the distribution platform for communication in emergencies, as required by governments. DAB+/DMB enables new features that will help in emergencies. For instance can a phone be switched on remotely, or a text message can be sent to everyone even if 3G or LTE networks are down due to massive usage. This is repeatedly demonstrated, as seen after emergencies (i.e. the bombings in Boston and London) or during events such as big sports competitions, on trains or in crowded streets when many people are gathered.

So, why not use LTE Broadcast instead?
Firstly, broadcasters depend on open standard, independent and free-to-air distribution networks. DAB+ is the standard of choice, and such networks have been built. Also governments depend on the same independent networks, in case of emergencies. Entire populations need to be reached simultaneously, without danger of a network collapse, and independently of which MNO the users are customers of. In the Netherlands as few as 30 DAB+ transmitters will cover the entire country. To do the same with LTE will require 38,500 transmitters according to research institute TNO. No MNO is willing to do take this cost.

DAB+ is furthermore the open standard that is being used on 4 continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania). DAB+ comes recommended by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which also calls for a harmonization of FM switch-off across Europe.

Distribution networks for the internet are not designed for, nor capable of replacing broadcasting networks as the number of connected devices and the required bandwidth skyrockets. Broadcasting will still work perfectly well in combination with the internet, and opens up for multi-apps that combine the technologies, seamlessly switches between them and introduces new revenue streams while still offloading the internet.

Let me give you a list of why LTE and LTE Broadcast cannot replace broadcasting:

  1. LTE requires many more transmitters (over 1000 times more) than DAB+ for  ~100% coverage.
  2. DAB+ has been decided upon as the standard for digital radio in many countries. DMB is a part of DAB+ (Eureka-147). 
  3. Robust networks with good coverage have been built, and are being expanded.
  4. LTE and other telecom networks will not and cannot be built to match the coverage of DAB+. The costs would be too huge.765 DAB+ transmitters are for instance needed to obtain 99.5% coverage in Norway. For LTE? Try closer to a million.
  5. Radio must reach "everyone", typically over 99% of the population in a country.
  6. Radio has always been, and must remain, open, accessible and free to air.
  7. Also broadcasters have to pay to use telecom networks, including LTE. That means that MNOs will charge both the sender and the receiver of content. 
  8. Broadcasters are in editorial control of their content, and demand to remain so. Having a gatekeeper acting as an additional editor or censorship manager is limiting democracy and free speech.
  9. LTE is controlled by MNOs as was the case with DVB-H. The DVB-H technology proved to be a fiasco. MNOs tried to control mobile broadcasting with no or little cooperation with broadcasters. 
  10. LTE and other telecom networks are not free to air.
  11. Digital radio will not be consumed only through phones. It is unlikely that LTE will be installed in kitchen radios, car stereos and other receivers that are not "controlled" by MNOs. 
  12. It doesn't make financial sense to air the same content via LTE when it is already being broadcasted live via digital radio. Double distribution is costly and unnecessary.     
  13. Radio is the preferred distribution network of many governments in case of emergencies.  
  14. An LTE or any telecom network is in danger of going down in case of extreme usage (emergencies or crowded places).
  15. To have a separate distribution network is key, also in case of emergencies. Always have a backup. Don’t put all eggs in one basket. 
  16. Internet distribution can “easily” be hacked. To take down a broadcasting network is a much bigger operation and typically involves dynamite or bombs. 
  17. Distributing a wide range of radio channels via LTE will reduce available bandwidth for ordinary internet services, and consume most of the data traffic in your contract with an MNO. It would also cost the world, if it was even possible. 
  18. LTE requires more power than broadcasting both on the transmitter side and on the receiver side. A test performed on a Samsung S3 in Norway shows that broadcasted radio gave 7 times longer battery time than streamed radio.
  19. DAB+ is a more robust technology, something experiences when the receiver travels at high speeds (cars, buses, trains or even planes).
  20. The number of connected devices is projected to skyrocket from 5 billion in 2012 to 50 billion in 2020 – a lot of the increase is due to M2M communication. (Source: Intel).
  21. Data transportation is expected to increase 68 times by 2026. (Source: Business Analytix). 
  22. Huge amounts of data are being transported through broadcasting. To move this to the internet would greatly reduce user experiences and QoS for any other service.
  23. The combination of DAB+ and LTE does however open up great possibilities. The combination opens up for new and innovative services and for increased revenues.

On a related note, The Independent claims that FM switch-off in Britain is likely to happen early 2018.


  1. That is why broadcasters aim to loose 470-698 MHz at WRC-15. And EBU is representing "the old fashion" broadcast way in Europe, this is why EU make decisions in favor broadband. Broadcast is no longer a need. Politicians give money for broadband - not broadcast.

  2. There is always a bit of political or corporate motivation for something which is still obsolete. Your points about broadcasting issues and savings in terms of bandwidth really make me ponder. BTW Norway is a beautiful place.

  3. Greetings Gunnar.
    Well done: the above article, your websites, etc. As to the above, can you refer me to the background research and publications of the data in your article above? My email is below. I would be happy to pay for your time. I manage Skybridge Terranautx ( As our website explains, we plan nationwide (in the USA) digital radio broadcasting on 40 and 200 MHz range radio spectrum for Intelligent Transportation Systems and other purposes, combined with LTE on our 900 MHz spectrum. My research thus far, reading secondary sources, is in accord with your article above, and much of what you say is fundamental and easy to understand and agree with for persons experienced in radio broadcasting and two-way 3G and 4G . However, we want to check as many sources, including original research and reports, as possible.
    Also, if you know of any "other side of the story" from those advocating use of LTE for forms of "broadcast" from a credible authority in the field, I would appreciate references to those also.
    Warren Havens, President, Skybridge Terranautx Group / Berkeley California USA / /

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