How 5G will change media and entertainment now and in the future
With the first public 5G networks now going live, what does the future hold for this exciting technology?
5G has been many years in the making, but the high-speed lights are beginning to come on across Europe - with potentially transformative results for media and entertainment.
Mobile operators are firing up their versions of 5G, and for residents of a select few UK cities, it is now possible to sign up for EE or Vodafone 5G services - admittedly at an ‘early adopter’ premium. If you believe the hype, 5G will usher in a brighter and bolder age of mobile/streaming entertainment.
The beginning of a content revolution
One powerful industry move is the collaborative 5G-Xcast project, which includes partners from across Europe, including the BBC, Samsung, BT, Nokia and a host of academic institutions, all dedicated to establishing the best methods of next generation content delivery across different devices and networks.
Although much of the work is still at the discussion stage, there is vast potential.
One interesting benefit here is the ability to make live broadcasts in the field that are of the highest studio quality. It’s an aim that AT&T and LiveU are currently pursuing, working together to bring 5G to LiveU's HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) portable broadcast units.
LiveU hopes that the trials will be the foundation to offering a single portable transmission solution that will capture multiple audio channels and enable multi-camera productions as well as 4K streaming.
A 5G sporting challenge
While it is still early days in terms of 5G maturity, and certainly in terms of adoption, sport is an obvious area that can benefit hugely from higher 5G data speeds and flexibility.
In November 2018, Wembley Stadium staged a live event that was broadcast over 5G, and it was recently reported that Manchester United are in talks with Vodafone to build a 5G data network at Old Trafford.
The move is possibly inspired by Barcelona, as the Spanish team has partnered with Telefonica to equip the Nou Camp stadium with 5G and to embed wireless 360-degree cameras throughout (including near the goals and dugouts), which will be accessible by home fans using VR headsets.
Creating such powerful and unique ‘behind the scenes’ content and owning the delivery network could prove to be a strong incentive for club fans to subscribe to a premium club TV package.
The case for edge computing
A key component of the 5G technology package is the ability for the network to support many more concurrent connections than current 4G networks - up to over a million devices per square kilometer, a vast improvement over the 60,000+ supported devices under 4G.
This mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication) has enormous implications for the Internet of Things, which may well see explosive growth as 5G rolls out, and low-cost devices in their millions can be easily networked.
However, it is arguably edge computing that may change entertainment delivery the most, as moving data and computing power nearer the user allows incredibly low latency to be achieved. This will be essential for AR gaming applications.
Indeed, Omar Tellez of Pokémon Go/Harry Potter: Wizards Unite publisher Niantic told delegates at MWC2019 that augmented reality games need latency to be as low as 25ms, compared to a standard mobile network latency of between 150ms and 200ms.
A mobile network with thousands of localised IoT devices with processing and storage capabilities would lower latency significantly, making faster, hyper-realistic or augmented gaming a more practical option for the future.
Network slicing - the big trend
Baked into 5G is the ability for operators to tailor different levels of provision for different types of clients, creating virtual ‘slices’ of a 5G network’s capacity.
This isolates each ‘slice’, ensuring that a streaming service, such as the live big match, could continue uninterrupted even when the public network becomes congested.
This allows entertainment companies and rights holders to guarantee premium experiences to consumers, a potentially valuable scenario. At least that’s the plan. EE has said that slicing will be not formally introduced until 2023.
Although 5G will undoubtedly change many aspects of content provision as we know it today, it is still early days. The official 5G standard is still not entirely complete and agreed, a fact that will result in an extended shakedown period as the telecoms industry winnows out the options.
This gives the broadcast, media and entertainment industry time to research, evaluate and experiment, potentially creating new delivery models and the next wave of must-watch content.
To learn more about 5G and to discover the innovations and technologies that will shape the future of broadcast, media and entertainment, register your interest for IBC2020.