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At Indy 500, Verizon races to offer premium video content on mobile devices

LTE Multicast technology seen as expanding revenue streams for carriers and providing premium video to viewers

May 22, 2014 12:25 PM ET

Computerworld - During the Indianapolis 500 this Sunday, Verizon Wireless, Ericsson and other tech companies will be focused less on the drivers and more on a racetrack demonstration of new wireless technology called LTE Multicast that would used for transmitting video to smartphones and tablets.

Verizon earlier this month showed for the first time in the U.S. that LTE Multicast could work over a commercial network -- its own LTE network.

Video cameras placed inside the cars and at trackside will carry video to IndyCar teams for new perspectives on the action incorporated with the race broadcast, Verizon said in a blog post.

This year's Indy 500 LTE Multicast won't be seen by the general public, but the possibility for that happening in the future is wide open. There's little question Verizon has big plans for providing premium video content -- at a premium price -- over its nationwide LTE network to fans in a variety of sports venues and other settings.

Offering wireless video content has become an obsession with the nation's biggest carriers -- including Verizon and AT&T -- which are eager to find new revenue sources. Both companies already work with the NFL to beef up Wi-Fi in football stadiums, but the LTE scenario will extend the reach of LTE Multicast to areas outside of Wi-Fi's reach.

To show the variety of ways LTE Multicast can be used, Verizon blogged in January about the possibility of giving college students on a school's satellite campuses the ability to see lectures by professors on the main campus, or giving municipal governments the ability to send important video messages to citizens' mobile devices.

In the case of AT&T, the company's planned purchase of DirecTV for $48.5 billion is heavily focused on giving AT&T more control over video content -- and access to DirecTV's 20 million customers.

Popular events like the Indy 500 have big followings that can generate big revenues "and Verizon Wireless is trying to tap into that," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

"Strategically, Verizon wants to get deeper into the content distribution business, and in this case, they are using LTE Multicast" to do that, added Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

The technology behind LTE Multicast is fairly complex. It essentially tries to mimic what happens in a TV broadcast, so that everyone in the audience tunes in to the same channel on their smartphones to watch events as they happen. There's no individual video stream to each device, but one universal stream that everyone equipped with the right technology can tap into. If a user tunes in late or drops out before the event is over, he will miss that part of the video, Gold said.

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