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Ericsson leads trial of ‘first content’ media delivery without tariff penalties

Mon 27 Feb 2017

International telco Ericsson is launching a new collaboration with major Australian telco Telstra and the Fox Innovation Lab to deliver prime entertainment releases direct to consumer devices without the traditional bandwidth penalty of streaming high-rate data over capped mobile plans.

According to the announcement, prefiguring further news at Mobile World Congress 2017, the latest entertainment titles will be made available to participating consumers at the highest quality, and with the sanction of participating studios. An agreement seems to have been struck with Telstra to discount the bandwidth used by the titles for the purpose of the scheme – an innovation which may interest net neutrality advocates in the United States and elsewhere.

An initial month-long pilot of the scheme rolls out to pre-selected subscribers today.

Ericsson’s senior VP Per Borgklint commented on the experiment:

“This live pilot is an example of how Ericsson is partnering with industry leaders across both the content and telco worlds to deliver innovative solutions that will transform viewing experiences and create new business models and monetization opportunities that help our customers to be competitive and lead the pack as digital pioneers. This pilot is the first service offering of its kind and an important industry milestone.”

Despite the increasing uptake of digital delivery platforms to theatrical issue and the diminution of the physical rental market in favour of streaming, the release cycle of films still largely follows a legacy pattern where non-cinema availability trails major release by 1-3 months (and approximately three years, usually, in the case of network and streaming providers).

It’s not entirely clear from the initial details whether or not the Ericsson/Telstra/Fox deal will actually offer consumers the chance to watch content which is currently on theatrical release, in the same way that the well-heeled subscribers to Prima are able to do – or whether the point of availability will be within the three-month window of post-theatrical monetisation.

According to Ericsson ‘The movies are pre-positioned on the consumer’s device and 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.’

Netflix is also beginning to roll out offline movie services across its global base – a move which primarily applies to mobile devices because of the very closed ecosystems of iOs and (to a lesser extent) Android. No major streaming provider has yet shown the will to provide offline viewing capabilities to desktop devices, with the exception of the BBC’s iPlayer service, which allows time-limited downloads.

The increasing availability of DRM-controlled services such as that announced by Ericsson lends further weight to the contention that more ‘controllable’ devices, such as laptops and full-fledged PCs – may increasingly become second-class citizens in terms of legitimate audio-visual capability; unless the operating systems in question close the consumer off from back-end access in the way that smartphones and tablets currently do (with the exception of jailbroken devices, which usually prevent DRM systems from functioning correctly).

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