Real-time video-casting to mobiles moves closer

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 05:00 16/09/2011
Mark Povey

Mark Povey from Solta Labs shows of the technology they are using to provide instant replays on smart phones at live sporting events.

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Want to see exactly how far forward "that pass" was that put the All Blacks out of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, or whether that Welsh penalty kick went between the posts or not last Sunday in the current competition?

By the time of the next tournament, Long Term Evolution [LTE] standard smartphones should make real-time video-casting to mobile devices a possibility, leaving spectators with the choice to immediately access replays on live action that they, or the referee, missed.

A local LTE network set up at Telecom's Auckland headquarters yesterday was downloading at 94mbps and uploading at about 12mbps, and the telco's technology partner Alcatel-Lucent said LTE averaged about six times faster download speeds than current networks.

Mark Povey's MyReplay smartphone application needs the kind of speed that an LTE, or 4G, network can provide.

Both Telecom and Vodafone have signalled LTE will become a reality in New Zealand when the government slices up newly available spectrum in 2014.

Povey said the app wouldn't work with current 3G networks because the latency - the time it takes for live video data to be downloaded or streamed to a mobile device - was too high, especially in a crowded venue like a stadium.

"High definition mobile video isn't there today. With 3G you can have a look at a YouTube clip and it downloads and plays, or buffers, but the challenge at an event is that you [can't] have that latency - it just won't work, so a high availability network is critical for live streaming content."

But as the technology catches up, the demand will likely grow, he said.

"The problem stadia have is that broadcasters do a great job of keeping people at home - they've got great quality, high definition pictures with their own replay abilities - so bums are moving from seats to couches and its the stadium's responsibility to get people back out there and say, `Hey, the live event is great'.

"Part of it comes down to who owns the content rights, but if you imagine you're heading to a venue and unfortunately through whatever circumstances you're late - let's not talk about the trains - you could get this replay coverage inside the stadium and even outside it for, say, a ten minute window."

Povey said the app would also target other venues such as golf courses, motorsport events, the Olympics, and sports bars.

Based in Auckland and under development since last November, MyReplay had been introduced to a global business networking group called NG Connect by Alcatel-Lucent and Telecom.

The global group is collaborating on LTE concepts to bring to market when the technology becomes widely available, and Povey said it was an indispensable link for them into larger foreign markets.

"That's very exciting for our little Kiwi company, there's only about 10 of us, because for us to get access to international markets is difficult.

"Speed to market is the only thing that's going to protect our intellectual property, so getting into markets fast is definitely one of the advantages of being part of the NG Connect programme."

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Already Verizon and AT&T in the United States have launched LTE networks, while Optus, Vodafone Australia and Telstra have all indicated they will use 1800MHz spectrum for their networks.

Telecom Retail's chief executive Alan Gourdie said yesterday the company was backing its third generation XT network for the long term, but said the "smartphone revolution" meant customers would eventually want an even higher level of speed and performance.

"That's the value of investment - staying ahead of your customers needs and demands even if they're using the world's most sophisticated devices," said Gourdie.

"We're just seeing the emergence of 21mbps-capable devices, and that's why we've got HSPA+ network. Now we're starting to see LTE devices, and certainly data-sticks are on the market... so that's the signal for us to start getting ready."

Telecom said it was currently preparing its submission to the Ministry of Economic Development on how it thought the 700MHz spectrum should be divided.

But yesterday was about the toys - the toys that could become common play things for app developers, advertisers and businesses of all shapes and sizes with the "insanely fast" mobile broadband speeds made possible by LTE.

In addition to MyReplay, executives from Alcatel-Lucent showed off a flat screen table that could display everything from multiplayer arcade games linked to smartphone controllers, to a jukebox-style selection of songs that might appear on a restaurant table.

An augmented reality application overlayed Google Maps information onto a real-time video display on a tablet's screen while another uploaded freshly shot 6mb photograph files to the internet within ten seconds, where they could then be accessed by editors or on sold.

The same could be done with moving pictures as live-streamed video could be uploaded and stored in the cloud for immediate editing.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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