By Shirish Nadkarni
There’s a sea-change a-stirring, and it is incumbent upon content producers and broadcasters to learn as much as possible about the nature of 5G, how it may be applied to the broadcast industry to capture more eyeballs with new interactive services.
With 5G networks going live in many countries the world over, consumers’ expectations and demand for new services have been increasing rapidly. For service providers, 5G represents a great potential for providing new customer experiences in the fields of mobile gaming, fixed wireless access and new immersive user experiences, driving revenue growth… but that is just the tip of the 5G iceberg.
“Evolution to 5G is a lot more than just about the bandwidth,” says DrSunil Thadani, Vice-President of AT&T. “Improved density, reliability and latency are important characteristics of 5G that help realise some new IoT (Internet of Things) use cases.”
Over the last couple of decades, IP technology has transformed mobile phones into tools to listen to music, watch news clips, store photos, do our banking and much more. And while the video world is also transforming with IP technology, this transformation has been curbed by bandwidth restrictions.
5G promises to change that with higher bandwidth and multi-access edge computing,thereby transforming the way audiences will be able to engage with content and creating new business opportunities for broadcasters.
Introduced initially as a high-speed technology for wireless broadband communications and mobile telephony, 5G will become a critical game-changer for broadcasting. Indeed, 5G is real, is being rapidly deployed, and appears destined to become an increasingly important tool in the broadcaster’s kit, improving the ease and agility in the coverage of live events and helping to trim the costs involved.
High-speed wireless connectivity brings with it the potential for replacing conventional wired and slower wireless linkage to cameras at outside events such as sporting matches, music festivals and parades, reducing capital outlay and storage as well as maintenance expenses.
5G connectivity as a key media element
Can 5G connectivity become a key media element and replace expensive OB trucks covering outdoor events?
It is interesting to note that some TV and radio broadcasters are tapping 5G broadcast technology using a process named FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service). Albeit,this standard gives a user the full spectrum of High Power High Tower (HPHT) applications in downlink mode only.
“5G should be looked at from several points of view,” remarks Stan Moote, Chief Technology Officer at the International Trade Association for Broadcast & Media Technology (IABM). “COVID-driven adjustments in both working from home and remote production are taking hold, and this means that 5G is becoming a key technology.
“Remote working means newer methods for collaboration are required and 5G is a clear backhaul contender. With home networks occasionally crashing, 5G also provides a much higher layer of confidence in connection with protected feeds, IFBs and remote control functions.”
Massive consumption of video content by mobile devices
Today, video content is being consumed via smart phones, tablets and similar consumer devices at an astonishing rate, and shows no sign of leveling off. A recent study forecast that within five years, 5G will be carrying 62% of the world’s smartphone traffic and that an astounding 79% of that traffic will be video content.
“The likely 5G use cases for video streaming in the foreseeable future are contribution, business-level transport (B2B), distribution, direct to consumer (D2C), in-venue delivery and some uncertain applications,” says Eric Schumacher Rasmussen, Vice-President of Streaming Media.
Gordon Brooks, Executive Chairman and CEO for Zixi, feels that D2C and distribution will, between them, account for nearly 50% of 5G use cases for video streaming.
As more and more content producers and distributors tap into 5G for their distribution, the application of open-source tools will be essential in the development and deployment of services.
Cross-industry organisation named 5G-MAG
A cross-industry organisation, the 5G Media Action Group, or ‘5G-MAG’, has been created to facilitate collaboration of all media distribution stakeholders in the deployment of services via 5G.
The association, bridging the broadcast and ICT industries, has elected Prakash Moorut, Global Head of Spectrum & Regulatory Affairs at Shure Inc, as chair of its Regulatory, Policy & Spectrum Working Group (5G-MAG RPS WG).
Before serving at Shure, Moorut spent more than 10 years with Nokia, most recently serving as Head of Spectrum Standardisation, where he led the company’s efforts on global spectrum standardisation and policy. He brings additional global regulatory experience from his previous role at Motorola for 14 years.
In December 2021, he was again appointed Chief Regulatory Officer of the Wireless Innovation Forum.
“The media industry needs to keep innovating,” said Moorut. “It’s an honour to serve in this important role that brings key stakeholders together to address the regulatory aspects for the potential use of 5G for media production and distribution.”
As a particular effort to respond to the need for software, the 5G-MAG Reference Tools project has recently been established. Since its start in late 2021, a steadily growing developer community is committed to create common open-source reference tools to support implementation and interoperability of 5G Media technologies.
The 5G-MAG Reference Tools development program is now developing an ecosystem of common open-source reference tools to support the implementation and interoperability of 5G Media technologies.
“The Internet is being increasingly used by service providers to expand content reach and by users to consume it at any time, anywhere and on any device,” says Thomas Stockhammer, Qualcomm’s Director of Technical Standards.
“With mobile technologies driving global video consumption, it is paramount to empower the media industry with the adequate tools to access the 5G media platform.
“Access to open-source tools to support prototyping, trials and possibly even deployments is of utmost relevance.”
New products for tapping 5G networks
Broadcast equipment manufacturers are already rolling out products for tapping 5G networks. Aviwest showcased its new PRO460 5G transmitter, which claims to be the next evolution of the company’s flagship PRO bonded-cellular transmitter series for remote and at-home video production.
“It is a must-have solution for facilitating live remote production over 5G with the potential for greater mobility, productivity, premium quality and massive savings in operational and capital expenses,” says Samuel Fleischhacker, Senior Product Manager at Aviwest.
Other notable exhibits on the theme of ‘Video over 5G’ at the recent NAB 2022 were Vidovation’s 5G-enabled encoder/transmitter, the Videostream H.265 5G encoder and the LiveU LU300 HEVC encoder for connecting to 5G networks.
Several other companies at the in-person show, including Cisco, Dejero, NOVELSAT, Rohde & Schwartz, Verizon, Viking Satcom and Vislink Technologies, showcased products that announced their thrust into broadcasting over 5G.
So, with 5G becoming a game-changer we need to be alive, ablaze and active … and participate in the 5G Media ecosystem!