Alcatel-Lucent Lets Operators Push TV to Smartphones

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Using a technology called mobile smart loading developed by Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent will let mobile operators and content providers push video content to smartphones while taking such things as network capacity and battery life into account, the telecommunications equipment vendor said on Tuesday.

Users don't necessarily have a good network connection with lots of download capacity at the moment they want to watch news, TV programs and movies on their smartphones. Using push technology, this problem can be overcome in many cases, according to Willem Verbiest, vice president in charge of Multimedia Solutions at Alcatel-Lucent.

When there is content available for download to the phone, mobile smart loading tries to use the fastest available network to push the content to the users. Content like movies and TV series will most likely be pushed out overnight, according to Verbiest. But more timely information like news will be pushed out with more urgency, during the day if necessary, he said.

There are cases when smart loading won't push content to the phone. If there isn't enough storage capacity or battery life left on the phone it won't start the download. That's because Alcatel-Lucent wants to avoid users waking up in the morning with lots of content on the phone, but no battery life, Verbiest said.

To avoid high roaming costs, the use of 3G for downloading content can be turned off while abroad, according to Verbiest, and instead get access via a Wi-Fi hotspot to download content. Also, the technology can be configured to avoid downloading content if the user is connected to a congested base station, Verbiest said.

The latter option is available in a version of the technology that will be sold to mobile operators, according to Verbiest. The version for content providers will not take network congestion into account when downloading content, he said.

At first, the software will only work on Android, but other mobile operating systems will follow. Alcatel-Lucent picked Android first because it is open and the easiest to develop for, according to Verbiest. Mobile smart loading also includes a server component that is installed in the operator's or content provider's network.

Mobile smart loading will be demonstrated at CTIA Wireless in Las Vegas, and at IPTV World Forum in London. Both events start Tuesday.

Mobile smart loading is a part of Alcatel-Lucent's multimedia strategy to integrate the distribution of video content in a number of different devices, including TVs and smartphones.

Users want a consistent viewing experience irrespective of the device they use, Verbiest said. For example, if users are watching a movie on TV and it is getting late they can hit pause then continue to watch the movie on the smartphone -- if it has been downloaded or can be streamed to the device -- while commuting to work in the morning, Verbiest said.

For all this to work, the operator offering the integrated service would have to obtain the right to distribute content to TVs, PCs and smartphones. For example, making programs that have been recorded at home using a PVR (Personal Video Recorder), available on the smartphone will definitely come with restrictions on what the users can and can't do, according to Verbiest.

Also, if certain content isn't available for mobile phones that has to be made clear to the users, so that aren't any disappointments, he said.

Alcatel-Lucent's multimedia strategy also includes the Velocix Digital Media Delivery Platform and the Multiscreen Video Solution. The latter is an extension to existing systems that will let service providers extend their fixed IPTV or cable TV offerings to smartphones, PCs, tablets and other connected devices. The Velocix Digital Media Delivery Platform will let service providers build their own content delivery network.

Both mobile smart loading and the new products are being released Monday, according to Verbiest. So far, Alcatel-Lucent hasn't got any customers to announce, but they are in talks with operators and content providers.

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