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5G Broadcast a boon for broadcasters, lowers costs, improves revenues

Across the Asia-Pacific region, there are over 1.1 billion digital video viewers, and more and more are beginning to consume content-on-the-go. With the maturing of 5G technology, some broadcasters in the region are conducting tests to enable consumers to seamlessly download and watch premium content on their mobile devices any time, anywhere. But first, what is EnTV and how will it impact the TV industry? Lara Tan finds out …

EnTV, more commonly known as 5G Broadcast, is the ‘heart’ of delivering high-quality content directly to consumers. It will bring about true digital transformation as 5G networks can distribute not only content to smartphones, with or without SIM cards, but also inspire new ways of producing content — augmented reality (AR), live broadcast with free-viewpoint and more.

According to a study conducted by Qualcomm, a multinational semiconductor manufacturer, 5G’s full economic effect will be realised across the globe by 2035, supporting a wide range of industries and producing up to US$12 trillion worth of goods and services.

This further intensifies the competition among the countries to be in the forefront of 5G technology. However, the speed of implementation of the next-generation networking technology will be determined by the coming together of regulators, telcos and equipment manufacturers.

The media and entertainment industry is currently teaming up with telcos to study and create a plethora of services to commercialise ‘EnTV’. With the convergence of the two industries, it will provide a great opportunity for broadcasters to simplify and enhance content production, distribution and reduce costs.

Live and remote broadcast

With its lightning speed and spectrum efficiency, 5G is ideal for live and remote broadcast. In a survey conducted by Ovum, a research company, more than a third of the media operators responded are planning to deploy 5G, in preparation for major sports events such as the 2020 Summer Tokyo Olympics.

For instance, KDDI, a telecommunications company from South Korea, and Samsung, a global technology conglomerate, have completed a live real-time free-viewpoint video (FVV) stream test on 5G with Korea Telecom.

This will facilitate an enterprise 5G network between 5G mobile newsgathering (MNG) equipment and Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), allowing the live broadcast of its Morning Wide news programme. It also allows agile remote production to meet the round-the-clock demand for content and help to reduce costs.

Furthermore, 5G capabilities can use a single reliable communication link to connect cameras to remote production studios, thus reducing reliance on complicated and expensive on-site set-ups.  

Quah Mei Lee, associate director of Frost & Sullivan (Info-communications Technology, APAC) said: “5G can offer affordable content creation through interactive free-viewpoint video visualisation and remote viewing of live events that can be made accessible by viewers any time and from any place.

“This will help the monetisation of content produced by sports producers and distributed by broadcasters.”

OTT & TV broadcast

With 5G, the industry can shift towards audio-visual broadcasting over IP and fully realised the power of digitisation. This will allow OTT and TV broadcasters to explore the realm of personalised content delivery with 5G.

According to a research conducted by Ovum, 63% of network operators worldwide are planning to offer 5G-based AR and/or virtual reality (VR) applications to people attending sports events at stadiums or watching events at home by 2020.

AR applications powered by 5G technology will be able to produce interactive experiences for viewers, such as streaming 360° video views, thus opening up another window of opportunity to monetise the new offerings and personalised viewing experience.

Noticing that network operators around Asia are snapping up the ‘EnTV opportunity’, Quah told APB: “5G has the potential to revolutionise the media and entertainment industries. It is currently being tested by sports producers and broadcasters worldwide … Content owners will gain the flexibility and agility to address shifting consumer needs and continue to monetise content amid increasing competition with OTT players.

“For TV broadcasters and content providers, 5G can create an opportunity for them to broaden their reach and to offer content in new ways, for example, with Ultra HD (UHD) video, Dolby Audio and 3D-VR-360, to meet viewer expectations.”

Quah concluded: “As Asia-Pacific viewers are more likely to pay for online content than their global counterparts, 5G Broadcast represents a unique opportunity for broadcasters and content providers in the region.”

Direct-to-consumer broadcast

With higher bandwidth spectrum, 5G Broadcast can broaden the reach of broadcasters and deliver high-quality content directly to consumers’ devices. As 5G Broadcast is based on FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast & Multicast Services) technology, it will offer a much higher quality of TV service and higher quality of experience.

“Consumers can tap into the new technology to enjoy HD and UHD content on-the-go. With lower latency and higher flexibility that 5G Broadcast offers, consumers can have a better experience with more real-time focused apps,” said Aziz Taga, product manager of transmitter systems at Rohde & Schwarz (R&S), the company that is involved in a 5G Broadcast field trial in China.

The Academy of Broadcasting Science (ABS) and China Broad­casting Network (CBN), two public institutions in China, have obtained commercial 5G licence of 4.9GHz with 50MHz band. And CBN is relying on R&S’ transmitter and core network components as this is in line with FeMBMS and High-Tower High-Power (HTHP) concept specified by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) Release 14.

Taga explained: “Using High-­Power High-Tower (HPHT) transmitters allows broadcasters to distribute video over 5G networks in downlink-only mode with all the advantages of classic broadcasting.”

“This provides high-quality HDTV broadcasting, low-latency live content as well as enormous spectrum efficiency and wide coverage. In addition, there is no need for a SIM card in the receiving mobile device; end-users just have to be within the range coverage.”

The Beijing Trial network comprises three stations operating in a single-frequency-network (SFN). The stations located at CCTV Tower, Jing Guang Center and Ming Ren Square are about 10km away from each other. Transmitters from Rohde & Schwarz with 1kW output power will be working at central frequency 754MHz with 5MHz bandwidth (and at a later stage on 10MHz).

With this end-to-end implementation, ABS and CBN plan to carry out an array of tests, such as field strength propagation, network coverage, mobility reception, application possibilities and interworking with LTE unicast network.

Taga maintained: “Broadcasting or multicasting the content via the HPHT overlay network is much more efficient than sending it hundreds of thousands of times to mobile network cells.

“With 60km cell coverage, this improved flexibility, wider coverage and spectrum efficiency will substantially reduce the cost of deployment and operation.”

The trial affirms that 5G can deliver multi-Gbps peak rates, ultra-low latency, massive capacity, and more uniform user experience. Thus, 5G broadcast will play a larger role in delivering video content as compared to its predecessors.

In another study conducted by Qualcomm, the company found that 5G NR (New Radio) can deliver fast speed even in challenging conditions, proving itself to be a more reliable and consistent network over 4G. The comparison also showcases a five-fold improvement in user experience.

To stay ahead of the technological curve, different network infrastructures may be used in a complementary or collaborative way to make efficient use of network and spectrum resources, according to 3GPP — the organisation that is helping to define and accelerate 5G acceptance.

With an efficient 5G network, broadcasters and OTT providers can look forward to truly monetising their assets in the increasingly connected world.

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