A few key differences between LTE Broadcast and FLO TV should make the newer technology more successful, Ovum analyst Daryl Schoolar said. For one thing, LTE Broadcast won't need a dedicated network like the one used for FLO TV, he said. The spectrum could be allocated to broadcasting at times and in places where it's likely to be needed rather than being locked into sending the same channels all the time to a whole city. When it's not needed, those frequencies might be aggregated into the block used for general mobile data, Schoolar said.
In addition, more devices are likely to be able to carry LTE Broadcast. Network vendors including Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson are backing the technology, and Qualcomm executives said in April that the company was building support into its popular Snapdragon mobile processors.
Stephenson expects AT&T's LTE Broadcast infrastructure to be "mature in scale" within three years. AT&T's rival Verizon Wireless is pursuing the same technology, with executives there saying they plan to offer services next year.
AT&T has also committed itself to new technologies for its underlying network architecture. On Monday, the company unveiled the second generation of its Supplier Domain Program, through which the company plans its infrastructure and selects vendors to supply its parts.
In the new phase, called Domain 2.0, AT&T plans to use SDN and NFV to cut costs and offer new services more quickly.
SDN separates the control plane that governs a network from the forwarding plane that sends packets through it. NFV removes the processes underlying network services from specialized hardware devices and turns them into pure software that can run on less expensive generic computing platforms.
"The hardware is a commodity-priced product and the software is where all the intelligence is," Stephenson said. AT&T is already virtualizing its own data centers and wants to extend the process to its core network, he said.
The new approaches should help the carrier create new services and applications, generate revenue from them more quickly and deliver high performance, security and reliability on the network, AT&T said.
Both are fairly new, with standards and APIs (application programming interfaces) still emerging. But in a press release that gave few details, AT&T laid down a firm commitment to implement them and said it would start selecting vendors and signing deals for Domain 2.0 later this year and through next year.
"Over the next five years, you will see a virtualization of the network," Stephenson said.
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