Mobile operators O2, Orange and Vodafone are banding together for a trial of a new mobile broadcast system designed to bring greater efficiency to the delivery of data intensive services such as mobile TV.
Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB) is a standardised 3GPP technology that recently received the endorsement of the GSMA. The multi-operator pilot will run for three months starting this October in central London and Slough. It will assess how mobile broadcast services can be deployed using shared network infrastructure.
It is increasingly becoming apparent to operators that it is more practical to use their own 3G networks than it is to build more expensive DVB-H broadcast networks. News of the IMBI trial by the international operators makes it even less likely that DVB-H will ever achieve widespread deployment.
As well as offering broadcast services to customers, IMB can seamlessly link with traditional unicast or on-demand services delivered over 3G. It will be deployed within a little used tranche of 3G spectrum called Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum. Although the spectrum is already written into many of the 3G licences held by European mobile operators it has gone largely unused because of the lack of an appropriate technology.
The pilot will demonstrate the capabilities of IMB in delivering both live streaming video and offloading traffic from existing 3G networks by broadcasting and storing popular content on the device. The partners believe the technology can deliver a compelling experience at a cost significantly lower than with other solutions.
“With the strong growth of data traffic on our 3G networks and the mobile industry’s recent support of this high performance broadcast technology, the time is right to move forward with an IMB initiative,” said Luke Ibbetson, head of technology R&D at Vodafone Group. “By joining our peers in this UK Pilot, we expect to be able to explore the potential of delivering broadcast services across available 3G spectrum.”
“Already a leading provider of mobile TV in Europe, our experience shows consumers will take advantage of linear broadcast services if the network experience is consistently good,” said Thierry Bonhomme, EVP in charge of networks, carriers and R&D at Orange. “Network capability is key for mobile TV roll-out and IMB will enable more operators to maximize the benefits they get from 3G investments with high quality TV service deployments on an efficient, pragmatic and scalable solution that works from country to country.”
Technology for the trial will be supplied by IPWireless and Ericsson, two of the pioneers behind the development of IMB technology within 3GPP.
IPWireless will supply the core 3GPP broadcast technology that will explore the performance of the TDD spectrum for mobile broadcast services. Ericsson, as the prime integrator, will provide integration services and a media platform. Streamezzo, recently acquired by Amdocs, is a leading software publisher of open mobile development platforms and will provide the user interface for the pilot.
There is no news on which broadcast partners might be used for the trial.