20th Century Fox piloting ‘new ways to deliver content’ via LTE Broadcast with Ericsson, unnamed mobile operator

20th Century Fox Film's Hanno Basse, second from left, discusses the company's LTE Broadcast tests.

LAS VEGAS—20th Century Fox Film is testing “new ways to deliver content to consumers” via LTE Broadcast network technology with technology vendor Ericsson and an unnamed mobile network operator, said Hanno Basse, the company’s CTO. He added that the company plans to release details of the tests in March during the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain.

Basse made his comments here during a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Although Basse didn’t provide any specific details on the company’s tests, he hinted at the new types of business models that the company is researching through its Fox Innovation Lab. For example, he discussed the possibility of 20th Century Fox offering movies to travelers in airports, allowing those customers to download content to their mobile devices before they boarded a plane so they can watch it during their flight. Basse noted that such a service “will enable new business models for us” but that it would only work “when we’re cooperating with the mobile operators” in order to know when customers enter an airport and are able to download a movie or other video content.

Ericsson is one of the world’s largest vendors of telecom network equipment, and also sells equipment and technology for LTE Broadcast. LTE Broadcast technology allows mobile network operators to essentially broadcast data—including video streams—to all of the customers in a particular area. Thus, LTE Broadcast can reduce the amount of data usage on a wireless network by streaming the same video content to all customers, rather than having each customer activate a separate data stream to receive it.

Basse made his comments on LTE Broadcast during a panel discussion focused on 5G wireless network technology. The global mobile industry is rallying around 5G network technology as the next major upgrade to cellular wireless technology beyond today’s 4G LTE network technology. Those in the wireless industry have promised that 5G will be able to deliver superfast download speeds to users, though they have cautioned that the technology likely won’t be commercially available until sometime around 2020.

Basse said the wireless industry’s move toward faster wireless networks lead 20th Century Fox to ask “OK, what can 5G do for us?” He said the faster speeds available through 5G could open up new distribution opportunities for Fox to more quickly load its video content onto users’ portable devices. For example, he said Fox’s virtual reality services around its movie “The Martian” require several GB of data, the delivery of which might be made easier through 5G networks.

“Premium quality drives our business,” he said, noting that faster download speeds will allow customers to access higher-quality videos.