Today Telstra was the first mobile carrier in the world to trial LTE-Broadcast live on a commercial network. While the ‘world first’ part of this might sound interesting, you might be wondering what’s in it for our customers, and why they should care. The answer is that while customers may not know it, LTE-Broadcast is a possible solution to keeping the mobile network humming years into the future.

One of the biggest challenges to mobile network operators across the world is how to manage the ever-growing demand for data.

In Telstra’s case we launched our 3G network in 2006. Since then data usage on our network has grown near on double, year on year. While it’s great that customers are clearly benefitting from using our network, the challenge is how we continue to configure our network to cater for the demand.

Each wireless network is built on a finite amount of spectrum – when a network is fully loaded it’s usually not possible to just add more spectrum to carry extra traffic – so all customers on that network will experience slower speeds. An analogy for this is when a road gets too crowded and all cars are slowed due to traffic jams.

Fortunately for network operators the technology is always evolving, and this supplies solutions. In 2011 Telstra launched our 4G network. The great thing for our customers was that not only did they now have access to the next generation of mobile network technology, it also added a whole extra channel for their data to be carried on.

We now have over 3.2 million 4G compatible devices on our network. With the uptake of 4G we have seen traffic flatten on our 3G network, but we are seeing a massive 23 percent growth in traffic on our 4G network – EACH MONTH! This means that currently the amount of traffic on our 4G network is close to doubling every three months. While the 4G network is still relatively new, we need to look for solutions that will allow us to sustain this growth month on month and year on year.

This is where LTE-Broadcast comes in. Many customers often want the same content delivered to their mobile phone at the same time. This might be a copy of the newspaper in the morning, a new operating software upgrade, or live feed of a sports contest. Traditionally if 100 people in a mobile network cell area wanted this content, we would send out 100 different streams of data – which uses a lot of network capacity. Through our LTE-Broadcast trial, we have today demonstrated that it’s possible to use one stream of data, to deliver the same content to multiple users – keeping the rest of the network free for other customers. It’s a similar concept to how TV stations broadcast to multiple television sets with one stream.

As we go through this trial phase we’ll be evaluating the technology, working out the benefits of integrating this across our network, and see what services might best be provided using LTE-Broadcast. We’ll keep you updated as to how our trials go, and about other things we are doing with our network so make sure we can support our customers and growing use of data in the years to come.

Telstra is undertaking this trial with our network partner Ericsson.