One reason it typically is hard to foresee the future is that every discrete change potentially and simultaneously changes all the rest of the background.
The observer effect states that the attempt to measure something at the same time changes the thing being measured. A more tangible expression of the observer effect would be the attempt to measure a car’s tire pressure. The process of inserting the tire gauge causes the tire pressure to change, by some amount.
Since humans are not good at predicting how all the rest of an ecosystem changes when one element of something in that ecosystem changes, the impact of any one change has potential for unforeseen consequences.
Something like that probably will happen with “LTE (News - Alert)-broadcast,” a way of using a mobile network’s capacity to support multicast events (point-to-multipoint).
Some might say end user behavior is changing, and so unicast video demand also is changing. That is true. But what is not necessarily clear is the assertion that on-demand viewing everywhere and always will be preferred by end users.
At one pole are big shared events such as the Super Bowl, where part of the enjoyment is “shared experience” with lots of other people. At the other end of the spectrum are highly-technical videos viewed by personnel in a single industry or industry segment, for purposes of research.
Most video demand will fall someplace between those extremes. But in the absence of a multicast service offering highly-valuable and very-popular content, on a regular basis, it is hard to tell how much demand might exist for an IP-delivered unicast video service.
Some might point to Qualcomm’s (News - Alert) FLO TV service, which shut down in 2010, as evidence that multicast mobile TV does not have such high demand.
Over the air TV broadcasters are trying to get traction for Dyle, a mobile TV approach that actually just mates a broadcast TV receiver to a mobile phone.
What isn’t clear is whether LTE-broadcast, based on the evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service incipient standard, will be different.
And technology likely will not be the crucial factor. Much will hinge, as always, on how attractive the offered content is, for potential users. In other words, given sufficiently attractive content, offered at what users see as fair prices, might not some significant demand be shifted from casual videos to the sorts of content viewers expect from subscription video services?
Up to this point, it has been hard to test the notion, since available retail offers have been relatively limited.
Nor, up to this point, has it been possible to test consumer demand for multicast video, as compared to unicast Internet-delivered video, for related reasons. In other words, if a user has 30 minutes of free time, would a multicast bit of content be preferred over a unicast alternative?
Nobody yet knows. Early LTE-broadcast efforts are not likely to settle the issue, either. Only when it is fairly easy to license and deliver a wide range of content to most mobile devices, at prices consumers see as reasonable, will the demand issues be clear.
Edited by Brooke Neuman