Telstra, Ericsson and Fox to pre-load movies to phones

Say you subscribe to one of the fine movie streaming services and use your mobile to do the viewing (and why not, given the screen quality phones offer these days). A new movie appears and you’re keen to watch … but you have to consider. What about data limits? How long will it take to download? Perhaps the moment might pass and you put it off.

Telstra, Ericsson and The Fox Innovation Lab are unveiling a new technology at the Mobile World Congress which will “pre-position” movies onto a consumer’s device. Basically, so it’s ready to go once the consumer receives notification that it’s available. Furthermore, it’s designed to have “no impact to device performance or consumer data plans.”

This is based on a new technology called “LTE-B” or “LTE-Broadcast”. The “LTE” is the standard “Long Term Evolution” moniker that’s been used to describe mobile data innovations this past decade. It’s the “Broadcast” part that’s interesting. Rather than a one-to-one connection between two devices – say your phone and a website or download site – this uses a one-to-many connection. Data can be pushed from the central source to all phones that are listening.

The announced implementation is a pilot. The point of it is to have the movie content already sitting on consumer devices when the movie is offered for purchase or rent. That way they “are available immediately for purchase or rent and play in full 1080p HD and high quality audio without interruption, both online and offline, and irrespective of network connectivity” they say.

Andrew Penn, Chief Executive Officer, Telstra, adds that it “has the potential to offer our customers a truly distinctive video customer experience, delivering studio sanctioned picture and audio quality. The solution will use Telstra’s Media Optimised Network, including LTE-B capability to pre-position content, and therefore have limited impact on overall network traffic with little to no additional infrastructure cost.”

This will be an interesting roll-out to watch. Presumably the streaming services will direct content to those who have profiles indicating a potential interest. But how much? What permissions will the customer’s device have to give? If your phone has 16GB of memory – which means maybe 10GB or less free – will you be happy to have several of those gigabytes consumed by content that you might not want to watch?

Still, these are smart people with far more experience in meeting customer needs than I’ll ever have. And I must say, being able to watch content instantly, wherever you are, without buffering lags or dropouts, and especially without complete failure of the service when you get too far away from the network, sounds like a great idea.