AT&T is finally making use of the 700MHz spectrum purchased from Qualcomm two years ago — to help give cellular towers the ability to broadcast live video without clogging up the LTE network. The new technology, called LTE Broadcast, optimizes data transmission by simultaneously sending content to numerous subscribers, rather than responding to individual requests and sending the broadcast separately. It allows cellular towers to behave like TV broadcast stations, in addition to providing traditional cellular service, thus preventing the data congestion and reduced speeds usually associated with popular LTE streams.
Doesn't require additional circuitry
Before the sale to AT&T, Qualcomm was also using the frequencies for media broadcasting, through the now-defunct MediaFLO mobile TV service. But unlike MediaFLO, which required additional hardware to operate, LTE Broadcast is cheaper and easier to support since it doesn't require additional circuitry.
The deployment of AT&T's LTE Broadcast network is still a few years away, with CEO Randall Stephenson saying that it's somewhere in the company's three-year plan. Verizon, on the other hand, is planning to launch LTE Broadcast next year, using the 2014 Super Bowl as an initial test run.
While LTE Broadcast seems like a great solution for high-demand events, it remains to be seen if US consumers would regularly utilize live broadcasts over mobile devices. The challenge for carriers is to find enough opportunities that would justify the infrastructure's expense. Otherwise, the broadcasting frequencies may continue to go largely unutilized.