Google is Adding Support for eMBMS for Reduced Mobile Network Congestion
In one of the latest additions to AOSP, Google has added eMBMS support. eMBMS stands for Evolved Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Service, and is also known as LTE Broadcast. This technology is present in the Snapdragon 800 series and later, and Google is now adding full support for the service. This service is hugely beneficial when many people are likely to want to watch or view the same content within a region or network. A situation it may be used in, for example, is wanting to broadcast different angles of a live event. Rather than streaming individual videos to each user (unicast), the same video streams are sent to everyone at the same time and the users themselves choose (multicast).
What is eMBMS?
To explain eMBMS, multicasting needs to be explained first. As said above, multicasting is a system for sending video streams to various users at a time without overloading the system it’s using.
eMBMS Demonstration. Video by Anandtech.
This technology first debuted in the MSM8974, more commonly known as the Snapdragon 800, which came in the Nexus 5 and many other flagship devices of 2013. eMBMS can be useful in places such as stadiums for broadcasting to devices of spectators. Running this on mobile networks (which is what eMBMS is) would mean that for data being sent to many people, such as a new software update, those on LTE may face decreased network congestion due to this technology.
eMBMS is multicasting but on a mobile data network. It’s aimed at providing emergency alerts, software updates, live stream services and mobile TV and radio broadcasting. Verizon in America have already launched this service, and it has been deployed at a few events in recent years. The technology was first demonstrated at a large scale event in February 2014 at the Super Bowl XLVIII by Verizon. Samsung Galaxy Note 3’s (one of the first Snapdragon 800 devices) were used and various points of view one could choose were transmitted to each device. The videos were broadcast at 1.8Mbps and the data feed was at 750Kbps. As well as all of that, Nokia documented that eMBMS actually reduces costs for the provider, due to its efficiency. All of this is for combating the 1000x data challenge that we will eventually face.
What is the 1000x Data Challenge?
The 1000x data challenge is a phenomenon that Qualcomm is trying to combat before it becomes a major problem. This is a scenario wherein there are so many devices that they are requiring 1000 times the amount of bandwidth that can be supplied at a given time. According to a recent study from Cisco in June 2017, the forecasted amount of data that will be used for video across the internet by the year 2021 is a staggeringly high 82%. This is a huge amount of bandwidth. To show just how much video we watch, Cisco claimed that each month we will consume more than 5 million years of video.
Thankfully, with Multicast and eMBMS technology, this challenge can be faced appropriately. Rather than continuously ramping up server power and costs, we can benefit from a more efficient, long term solution in the form of eMBMS, or LTE broadcast, technology, especially now that it is being included in AOSP source. This means that theoretically, any Android device on the next release should support eMBMS, as any Snapdragon device since the 800 series supports it. Currently, the main front runners supporting this technology are as follows: Verizon in America, Kt and Reliance in Asia and EE and Vodafone in Europe. We hope to see more network providers supplying this technology, as with modern day connections it can sometimes be vital to access an uncongested and working internet connection anywhere you are.