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Mobile TV over 3G networks – Service and

enablers evolution
Juan-Antonio Ibanez, Thorsten Lohmar, Dalibor Turina and Aurelie Zanin

User interest in mobile TV services is growing thanks especially to the rates is now being introduced into terminals
rapidly evolving multimedia capabilities of mobile terminals. Mobile opera- (it is already widely supported in networks).
tors are thus eyeing mobile TV services both as a new source of revenue And initial deployments of MBMS began in
2008, adding unique broadcast capabilities
and as a way of increasing customer loyalty.
to 3G networks.
This article looks at some key components of a mobile TV solution
that capitalizes on the capabilities of third-generation (3G) networks – in
particular, built-in support of unicast and broadcast transmission, which Broadcast versus unicast
fosters and sustains a strong uptake of service. There has been a lot of talk lately about
broadcast technologies being adequate en-
ablers of mobile TV services. While this
might be partially valid for traditional TV, it
is evident – with the evolution of mobile TV
Drivers and challenges of At present, mobile TV services are de- service through on-demand TV, podcast TV,
livered over unicast best-effort bearers. In and interactivity – that unicast bearers are
a mass-market mobile TV most cases, this form of delivery is adequate the true essential enablers.
service provided there is sufficient capacity in the The preferred solution for efficiently deliv-
Surveys show that end-users consider mobile network. Notwithstanding, a surge in the ering mobile TV services calls for a combina-
TV to be one of the most interesting mobile volume of packet data traffic is putting pres- tion of unicast and broadcast bearers. With
applications on offer. Mobile TV is often sure on the ability of networks to deliver unicast, operators can offer a broad selec-
identified with “linear TV” and scheduled delay-sensitive streaming services. For mobile tion of TV channels or content, even though
broadcast distribution, but the concept of TV services to succeed, a number of enablers only a limited number of users will view
TV and especially that of mobile TV is rap- must be put into place that maintain and most channels. By contrast, operators can
idly evolving to embrace on-demand TV as improve the quality of the end-user experi- boost system capacity by employing broad-
well as podcast TV. ence. These enablers are cast capabilities to deliver the most popular
Market surveys and feedback from numer- • network capacity through proper dimen- channels in densely populated areas. The
ous test and commercial installations around sioning and enhanced technology; combined use of 3G unicast and broadcast
the world confirm that users expect to be • improved QoS handling for streaming ser- capabilities enables operators to offer a vir-
able to access TV content when and where vices (as compared with background inter- tually unlimited number of channels, as op-
they want, for instance while they are com- active traffic); and posed to pure broadcast solutions, which put
muting via bus or rail. • efficient broadcast capabilities in 3G net- a hard limit (dictated by the amount of avail-
As mobile TV gains ground among opera- works – for example, multimedia broad- able spectrum) on number of channels.
tors and end-users, the need to deliver it in cast/multicast service (MBMS). In a nutshell, unicast can be used effi-
a cost-effective way with guaranteed quality Ericsson, followed by other companies, is ciently
of service (QoS) becomes paramount. These introducing these enablers into its networks • to delivery a large number of niche TV
two aspects are equally important: cost- and terminals, and commercial deployments channels to individual end-users;
effective delivery is a must in order for op- are set to begin in 2008. High-speed down- • to deliver on-demand TV;
erators to maximize their revenues, just as link packet access (HSDPA), for instance, • to time-shift the delivery of linear TV
adequate quality of service is necessary to brings exceptional capacity to unicast. Simi- (pause/play, fast-forward, rewind);
guarantee a satisfactory end-user experience. larly, streaming QoS with guaranteed bit • to deliver podcast TV to individual end-
users; and.
• to provide interactivity for, and facilitate
the personalization of, TV service.
Likewise, broadcast techniques are best used
to efficiently deliver popular TV channels to a
TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
large number of end-users in a given geographic
3G Third-generation mobile system MCCH MBMS control channel
area and podcast TV to a large group of end-
3GPP Third Generation Partnership MSK MBMS session key users.
Project MTK MBMS traffic key Therefore, although unicast remains a
BM-SC Broadcast/multicast service center MUK MBMS user key fundamental component for delivering
DRM Digital rights management QoS Quality of service
evolved mobile TV services, the addition
DVB-H Digital video broadcasting – RNC Radio network controller
handheld SAP Service access protection of broadcast gives operators the most flex-
ESG Electronic service guide SGSN Serving GPRS support node ible and cost-effective solution for providing
GBA Generic bootstrapping architecture SIM Subscriber identity module these services over a 3G network. In this
GGSN Gateway GPRS support node SMS Short message service context, the OMA BCAST standard plays
HSDPA High-speed downlink packet access UE User equipment (mobile terminal or
HTTP Hypertext transfer protocol handset)
an important role by defining a framework
MBMS Multimedia broadcast/multicast VoD Video on demand for global interoperability of mobile broad-
service XML Extended markup language cast services.1

38 Ericsson Review No. 1, 2008

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Figure 1
Illustration of the MBMS enhanced
broadcast mode. In this example, the
Ed^ci"id"bjai^ed^ci RNC decides to distribute the content via
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a point-to-multipoint radio bearer when
Ed^ci"id"ed^ci
gVY^dWZVgZg three or more users request the same TV
channel.

MBMS – the 3G broadcast vice center (BM-SC), through the GGSN multipoint radio bearer, in which case the
and SGSN, to each radio network control- terminal needs only “tune” to that radio
technology ler (RNC) that serves the target area. The bearer; or
As explained above, operators need broadcast transport plane bearer carries the audio and • terminal needs to request a dedicated
technology to cope with a high penetration video components of the TV channel to the point-to-point radio bearer. No radio
of mobile TV services; the technical solution RNC. The RNC signals the availability bearer is established until a terminal has
over 3G networks is called MBMS (multi- of the TV channel on a common MBMS requested one (this way, unused radio re-
media broadcast/multicast service). Other control channel (MCCH), which is always sources are conserved for other purposes).
wireless broadcast technologies also exist present in MBMS-enabled cells. When an When the number of point-to-point radio
(such as DVB-H) but are not covered in this end-user selects a TV channel, the terminal bearers for a given TV channel reaches a
article, whose focus is on the capabilities of a reads the MCCH information to determine predefined threshold, the RNC switches to a
3G network. whether or not the TV channel is available point-to-multipoint radio bearer and releases
The article Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast via MBMS in the cell. If the terminal does the point-to-point bearers (the threshold rep-
in mobile networks presented MBMS in some not find the TV channel on MCCH or there resents the breakeven point in terms of total
detail.2 At the time of publication (January is no MCCH (for example, when an end-user cell power consumed by either transmission
2005), the 3GPP standard defined just two is roaming in another country), the terminal mode). After having switched to point-to-
modes of transmission: broadcast and mul- can ask the TV server to send the content via multipoint mode, the RNC randomly trig-
ticast. Toward the end of 2006, 3GPP intro- unicast. The availability of the unicast alter- gers terminals, inducing them to report their
duced a new “counting” mode for broadcast, native is indicated in the electronic service interest in the TV channel. This “recount-
also commonly referred to as enhanced broad- guide (ESG). ing” procedure allows the RNC to reassess
cast. 3GPP designed the enhanced broadcast The information provided over MCCH in- the appropriate transmission mode as users
mode to better suit the characteristics of mo- dicates whether the move to other cells or stop watching the TV
bile TV services (in particular, fast channel • TV channel is delivered on a point-to- channel.
switching) while achieving high spectrum
efficiency. Below we provide an overview of
the enhanced broadcast mode. Readers who
what to learn more about the broadcast and BOX A, UNICAST, BROADCAST, POINT-TO-POINT, POINT-TO-MULTIPOINT
multicast modes of MBMS should refer to
the aforementioned article. Unicast refers to a particular case of end-to-end, point-to-point communication between a
Figure 1 illustrates the principle of MBMS server and a client (or receiver). Broadcast communication is typically end-to-end, point-to-
multipoint communication between a server and multiple receivers. MBMS-enhanced broadcast
enhanced broadcast mode. A tree-like trans- mode extends this concept. It offers an end-to-end, point-to-multipoint communication service,
port plane bearer is established for each TV but may employ any combination of point-to-point or point-to-multipoint radio bearers to reach
channel from the broadcast/multicast ser- the actual receivers.

Ericsson Review No. 1, 2008 39

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Service access protection principle.

The RNC thus always employs the most or terminals about available services and how UEs what alternative bearers exist for each
favorable transmission mode, conserving un- they can access them. In the context of TV TV channel. The UEs select the most appro-
used radio resources for other services. Note, services (such as linear TV, VoD, and podcast priate bearer in their current location, priori-
however, that MBMS-enhanced broadcast TV) the service announcements take the form tizing broadcast bearers over unicast bearers
does not make “plain” broadcast mode ob- of an electronic service guide (ESG), which is when both options are available. The ESG is
solete. In some cases – for instance, where a an XML file with technical information that a key feature for offering mobile TV services
large number of end-users with a common receiving devices use to request, receive, de- that seamlessly integrate unicast and broad-
interest are concentrated in a limited geo- crypt and render services. Ericsson promotes cast delivery. Note that the ESG solely refers
graphic area – MBMS broadcast (without the OMA BCAST standard, which defines a to the access technology; the type of radio
recounting) is the perfect solution. Typical service guide structure and describes ways of bearer used in broadcast mode is dictated by
examples are local broadcasts in sports arenas accessing it – for instance, by using a push the information provided over MCCH.
or at exhibitions where targeted content can mechanism over a broadcast bearer or a uni-
be distributed exclusively to the local audi- cast pull mechanism.3
ence. The MBMS service area concept defines The OMA BCAST ESG structure is made Service access and
the distribution area of an MBMS service up of numerous fragments. The core frag-
with the granularity of one cell, allowing op- ments contain the program guide – that is, content protection
erators to define precisely where content is to the information which is meaningful to end- After the broadcast client has received ac-
be broadcasted. users, such as a list of TV channels and pro- cess information via the service announce-
grams (previous, current, next) on each TV ment, the system cannot restrict reception of
channel. The ESG also contains information the media stream. The media streams must
Electronic service guide that is understood by the receiving applica- thus be encrypted to limit reception to those
MBMS service providers employ service an- tion but is not rendered to end-users. This people/devices who have subscribed to the
nouncements to inform user equipment (UE) includes the access fragments, which tell service. In other words, all receivers can re-
ceive the media streams but only subscribing
clients can decrypt and render them.
An organized, layered hierarchy protects
access to the MBMS service as follows (Figure
2)4: Each broadcast media flow is encrypted
BOX B: PODCAST TV using an MBMS traffic key (MTK). This key
is changed frequently and distributed, in-
Podcast TV describes a service to which end-users subscribe to view some kind of video content terleaved, in the actual broadcast flow. The
on a regular basis or as it becomes available. The video clips are pushed to subscribers. They are
downloaded in the background, without user intervention, and stored in the terminal for off-line traffic key is protected with an MBMS ses-
viewing. Examples include the last episode of a TV series, weather forecasts, news updates, and sion key (MSK), which is distributed via uni-
so forth. cast. Only devices that have registered and

40 Ericsson Review No. 1, 2008

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authenticated with the BM-SC may receive
the MSK. The MSK, in turn, is protected
against eavesdroppers by the MBMS user
key (MUK), which is derived from a shared
secret key (Ks’). This key is established dur-
ing the authorization procedure, part of the
generic bootstrapping architecture (GBA).5
The actual media-protection keys change
frequently and may thus solely be decrypted
by registered devices.
The MUK and MSK are stored on the SIM Britney will have a... Confirm: Boy Please wait, sending vote...
card (more secure) or in device memory. 7dn EaZVhZgZbZbWZgi]ViXVhi^c\
VkdiZXdhih%#).
The OMA BCAST specification delineates <^ga
Vote Cancel Confirm Back
the protection of service access and content.6
Service access protection (SAP) is about lim-
iting access to the service. Content protection
(also known as digital rights management,
DRM) is about the management of received 1 2 3
content. Usage rights objects might restrict
how end-users use content. An end-user, for
example, might be able to record a mobile
TV session but will be prevented from for-
warding it. The OMA BCAST SmartCard
profile complies with and further extends the
3GPP MBMS access-protection scheme de-
Figure 3
scribed above.
Example of voting interactivity sequence:
(1) The device displays two alternatives. (2) After making a selection, the end-user is
asked to confirm the charge. (3) The vote is then sent.
Interactivity and
personalization
Several TV programs contain “interactivity
features” that help integrate the audience
with the show they are watching. Popular
TV shows like “Big Brother” and “Ameri- BOX C, ARCHITECTURE FOR MOBILE TV OVER 3G
can Idol” let the audience vote on its favor-
ite contestants. Viewers typically cast their Figure 4 gives a simplified view of a typical architecture for mobile TV over a 3G network.
The BM-SC is a logical entity defined by 3GPP. In practice, its functionality is split among several
votes via voice calls or premium SMS with physical components. The gray box roughly illustrates the distribution of BM-SC functionality.
a keyword. The advantage of this approach
is that it reuses existing charging methods. The TV server is the first contact point for the terminal and the central control unit of the mobile
The price of a vote depends on the num- TV service. The ESG aggregator translates and combines program information from content
ber dialed, and the charge is collected via a providers and inserts it into the ESG.
phone bill. The media controller distributes content streams to UEs via unicast or broadcast. The encryptor
OMA BCAST takes interactivity one step encrypts the broadcast streams under the supervision of the service access protection (SAP)
further by specifying an interactivity enabler. function (Figure 2). Unicast streams do not require additional access protection because
Interactivity with an end-user is triggered standard 3G unicast security mechanisms already apply.
by the reception of an interactivity media The broadcast controller establishes and releases MBMS bearers through the core and radio
document, which describes the interactiv- network.
ity sequence (Figure 3). Interactivity media
documents may be sent via unicast or inter- The live encoder, podcast TV, and on-demand TV servers encode TV content in a format that is
leaved with broadcast flows and transmitted suitable for mobile devices and encapsulate it in applicable protocols for distribution.
to all listening devices. User feedback is then The interactivity server generates interactivity documents. The feedback collector processes
sent to the feedback collection server over a feedback from end-users.
standard 3G unicast bearer (for example, via
HTTP or SMS). Protocol names are mentioned for completeness. For further details, the reader is kindly referred
to the following documentation from 3GPP:
The interactive service content is distribut- • Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Service (MBMS); Architecture and Functional Description
ed as a separate logical flow to receiving de- (3GPP TS 23.246).
vices that then merge it into the actual pre- • Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Service; Protocols and Codecs (3GPP TS 26.346).

Ericsson Review No. 1, 2008 41

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Simplified view of architecture for mobile BVcV\ZbZcihnhiZb
TV over a 3G network.

sentation of the TV service. Therefore, one service guide (ESG) is a complete “content of legacy TV systems and Mobile TV trials
may personalize the interactive service ex- browser” that presents live, recorded and lo- have shown that users expect a large variety
perience. Users may browse the ESG, choose cally stored multimedia content by combin- of channels, but only a small set of channels
from a variety of interactive services and, by ing linear TV, on-demand and Podcast TV are especially popular at any given time.
means of personal settings, specify how they into a unified service offering. Thanks to its inherent flexibility and ef-
want the service to be displayed. MBMS is a technical extension to 3G net- ficiency, MBMS is Ericsson’s preferred choice
“Voting” is but one example of an interac- works: it reuses deployed infrastructure and of broadcast technology for Mobile TV as
tive service, and the interactivity enabler can spectrum. Moreover, Ericsson’s implementa- well as any other service that must deliver
be used to realize other services, such as news tion of MBMS can be deployed as a software the same content to a large group of users in
tickers or chat applications, or to distribute upgrade. a 3G network.
personalized or location-dependent adver- MBMS is used to boost capacity for trans- Interactivity and personalization are pow-
tisements. mitting popular Mobile TV channels to large erful means of captivating an audience and
audiences. The radio network determines increasing TV viewing time. Mobile TV,
whether it should employ point-to-point or with its natural integration of unicast and
Conclusion point-to-multipoint radio-transmission re- broadcast communication channels, intro-
Mobile TV is often identified with the “lin- sources. Mobile TV channels are thus solely duces entirely new ways of interacting with
ear TV” of legacy, fixed TV networks, but broadcasted as needed. Integration with an audience and of creating a personalized
Ericsson’s vision of Mobile TV also embrac- unicast makes it possible to offer a virtually TV experience. This new approach will
es the distribution of on-demand TV and unlimited number of Mobile TV channels become a key differentiator of Mobile TV
Podcast TV content. The client’s electronic and on-demand content. Consumer studies offerings.

REFERENCES

1. Mobile Broadcast Services. Open Mobile Alliance, OMA-TS-BCAST_Services-V1_0


2. Bakhuizen, M and Horn W.: Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast in mobile networks. Ericsson
Review, Vol. 82(2005):1, pp. 6-13
3. Service Guide for Mobile Broadcast Services. Open Mobile Alliance, OMA-TS-BCAST_Service-
Guide-V1_0
4. Security of Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Service (MBMS). 3GPP TS 33.246
5. Generic Authentication Architecture (GAA); Generic Bootstrapping Architecture. 3GPP TS
33.220
6. Service and Content Protection for Mobile Broadcast Services. Open Mobile Alliance, OMA-
TS-BCAST_SvcCntProtection-V1_0

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