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There are a number of 3G offloading techniques

Photograph of Alastair BrydonNot all services and content consumed via 3G devices have to be delivered by 3G macrocell networks. There are a number of complementary delivery methods for the delivery of some, or all, services and content, particularly for users with access to a fixed broadband service.

Dedicated mobile broadcasting technologies, such as DVB-H, DMB and MediaFLO, could deliver multimedia content (notably mobile TV and radio) to 3G devices equipped with appropriate broadcasting receivers. The 3G standard itself also includes a number of mechanisms for broadcasting multimedia content, for example, Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (MBMS), evolved MBMS (eMBMS) and Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB). Mobile broadcasting avoids the capacity limitations of point-to-point 3G streaming by transmitting the same mobile TV and radio data to all service users. Hence, mobile broadcasting could support very high levels of service penetration and usage without the need to fill 3G networks with multimedia traffic.

Mobile users with access to fixed broadband services have additional methods for the delivery of services. These are:

  • indoor systems (WLAN access points or 3G femtocells)
  • sideloading.

WLAN is already experiencing strong consumer adoption and this is likely to continue. 3G operators are planning to deploy (or are in the process of deploying) femtocells. Indoor wireless systems potentially allow the broadest range of services to be delivered to 3G devices within range of a 3G femtocell or a WLAN access point (if the mobile handset is WLAN enabled). By doing so, indoor wireless systems could potentially relieve 3G macrocells of a significant proportion of service traffic and use domestic fixed broadband connections as backhaul.

Sideloading is the process of transferring multimedia content (for example, downloaded from the Internet or ripped from a DVD) from a PC to a mobile device (via cable or short-range wireless) for storage and subsequent consumption. The number of mobile devices on the market that feature substantial onboard storage and high-quality displays capable of showing video has increased significantly. Currently, multimedia content (for example, TV and music) is most commonly sideloaded onto mobile devices using a cable but, in future, delivery could be achieved in a variety of ways, including wirelessly via a 3G femtocell or WLAN access point. The complementary methods for delivering services and content to 3G devices have quite different characteristics, as shown in the table, below:

Table comparing broadcasting, WLAN, femtocells and sideloading as 3G offloading options

Alternatives to 3G macrocells for delivering services to 3G devices

TV and video will become increasingly important in the service mix on 3G devices. The ability of each delivery method to support different types of TV and video content is shown in the table below. Of these, indoor wireless systems and sideloading could strongly complement 3G macrocell delivery, by providing high quality of services in the indoor environment.

Table evaluating to the suitability of 3G, broadcasting, indoor systems and sideloading for the delivery of TV and video services

Suitability of offloading methods to deliver different types of mobile TV and video content

Dr Alastair Brydon has worked in digital radio communications for over 25 years. He provides expert advice on 2G, 3G and 4G mobile systems and standards including GSM, UMTS and LTE. He has written over 40 reports on the development of wireless technologies and services and has acted as an expert witness in major patent disputes.

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