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5G in 2022: A major game-changer for broadcast industry in offering new customer experiences

By Shirish Nadkarni

There can be no two opinions that 5G has been a major game-changer, as far as the broadcast industry is concerned. With the proliferation of 5G networks, consumers’ expectations and demand for new services have increased rapidly. For service providers, 5G represents a great potential for providing new customer experiences, thereby driving revenue growth.

For the proactive service provider, 5G represents a 30% growth opportunity by 2030, realised through a dedicated effort into service innovation. As an essential component of this growth, it has been estimated by the Competitive Social Advertising Intelligence agency, BrandTotal, that service providers can generate US$131 billion in direct revenue from 5G consumer use cases. 

In addition to high-speed data and broadband, key opportunities present themselves in the areas of enhanced videos (4K, 8K and formats like 360-degree video), live sports streaming, music and gaming (mobile and cloud), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), ​consumer IoT (Internet of Things) services, in-car entertainment and connectivity, and digital advertising.

To understand the ramifications of all the applications of 5G in the broadcasting arena, it is worth looking at differentiated 5G services in the world’s fastest growing 5G market, South Korea, which has more than three million 5G subscribers, and is expected to cross the 5-million mark by year-end. The country’s largest telecommunications service provider, SK Telecom (SKT) has been working with Ericsson to maximise the potential of 5G, efficiently and economically.​​

It is barely eight months since SKT commercially launched its 5G Network. With 5G downlink speeds that are 10 times faster than 4G, and that exceed 1 Gigabit/s in stationary mode and 500 Megabit/s in mobile mode, SKT has positioned 5G as a premium service. 

In addition to ultra-high speeds, 5G delivers rich content in diverse areas spanning gaming, UHD video, and AR/VR based applications. 5G is also driving higher data usage with an average data consumption that has grown from 9 GB/month on 4G to more than 25 GB/month on 5G.

SKT has been rolling out 5G in the 3.5 GHz mid-band in the main population areas of 85 cities, and other highly populated areas that have high concentrations of data traffic, like university districts, high-speed trains, sports stadiums, metropolitan subway lines and expressways. Coverage is also being expanded to include nationwide subways, national parks and festival sites.

To ensure subscribers have access to good 5G coverage while travelling on public transportation systems, small, lighter-weight radio products are also required to provide coverage in areas with less capacity need. 

To meet these requirements, SKT has been utilising the Ericsson Radio 4422, a 5G radio unit with 4TRX and a passive antenna design. It provides the best time to market and minimises the impact of site rental by either adding the smallest antenna or remaining single antenna configuration.

In comparison with 5G usage in South Korea, and the huge rollout of 5G networks in China, the build-out of 5G in North America, especially in the area of professional sports, makes an interesting case study.

“5G has the potential to transform sports and media experiences radically,” says Peter Linder, Head of 5G Marketing, North America, for Ericsson. “Over the last three years, 5G has brought us into exciting conversations involving sports and media with a few powerful sports showcases along the road.

“I was fortunate to grow up at the intersection of sports, media and technology when we hosted Formula 1 races in my hometown (Dallas, in Texas) when I was a kid. In 1973, computerised results, leading up to real-time results fed to broadcasters in 1982, computer-generated graphics in 1986, and wireless timekeeping in 1988. This cradle made me curious about sports to a point where I now love to see how 5G can make a difference for the future fan experience.”

Despite shutting down physical events, Covid-19 didn’t stop the growth of 5G in sports venues. Instead, it has been an opportunity to prepare stadiums for the day fans return in large quantities. With 5G now present in many sports locations in the US, Linder explains how 5G can enhance the fan experience.

“5G plays a crucial role in transforming the fan experience delivered by the sports and media industries,” he says. “This is a shared belief of communications service providers, leagues, franchises, venue owners, and media companies. We have seen a rapid build-out of 5G capabilities by US service providers in more than 50 venues for major sports during the pandemic.”

Indeed, 5G has been a game changer for live productions of broadcast and streaming media from sports and music venues, directed at a target audience of communications service providers, major sports leagues and franchises, venue owners/developers and sports broadcasters.

Linder is of the opinion that 5G allows live sport organisers and promoters to enhance the total experience from home to venue and back; and has targeted communications service providers, major sports leagues and franchises, public transport and even parking authorities.

“Key stakeholders in the sports and media industries aspire to refine their fan understanding to improve both event and media experiences,” says Linder. “Here, we can target communications service providers, major sports leagues and franchises, sports broadcasters and venue owners.”

New sports venues, for games or practice, are planned as part of broader experience-centric districts. The target audience here is communications service providers, major sports leagues and franchises, real estate developers, sports healthcare providers, and retail and restaurant chains.

“The areas where 5G can advance the sports fan’s experience are essential to reversing the current trend of aging sports fans and matching the continuing rise of media rights fees with improved experiences,” says Linder.

“It is a task that could pull in a bigger crowd into venues, and bring stadiums and arenas closer to fans at home. It is also a business projected to generate US$83.1 billion in revenues by 2023 in the US alone.”

Question: As 5G does play a crucial role in transforming fan experiences in the  delivery of live sports and major media events, what other differentiated 5G-powered experiences can broadcasters bring to market to capture and retain eyeballs so as to generate more revenue?

Let’s resolve to make 2022 a happy & prosperous new year by sharing our 5G experiences and ideas at  maven@editecintl.com.

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