During this Sunday's Indy 500, 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 trackside will carry video to IndyCar teams for new perspectives on the action, incorporated with the race broadcast, Verizon said in a blog.
This year's Indy 500 LTE Multicast won't be seen by the general public, but the future for that possibility 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 areas of revenues. Both companies already work with the NFL to beef up Wi-Fi in 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 on the possibility of serving college students on satellite campuses with the ability to see a lecture from a professor or giving municipal governments the ability to reach citizens with important messages on a mobile device.
In the case of AT&T, its planned purchase of DirecTV for $48.5 billion is heavily focused on giving AT&T more control over video content and the 20 million customers DirecTV already has.
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," 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 into the same channel on their smartphones at the time of the event to watch it. There's no individual video stream to each device, but one universal stream that everyone equipped with the right technology can tap into. If the users tunes in late or drops out, that part of the video is missed, Gold said.
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