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20-08-2019 5:18:09

5G & broadcast – the good, the bad and the latency

Tom Pammenter|Industry

The fifth generation of cellular network technology is going to change things.

And we mean really change things.

From the everyday, to infrastructure, to broadcast.

How we watch content is going to shift, we’ll be watching more of it, and what we watch could change according to our reactions.

 

5G: out now 

“5G is the next generation of mobile technology. It is expected to deliver faster and better mobile broadband, and to enable more revolutionary uses in sectors such as manufacturing, transport and healthcare. This may create benefits for people and businesses and expand the role of wireless connectivity within the economy and society.” – Ofcom, Enabling 5G in the UK, March 2018

  • 2G networks: designed for voice
  • 3G: for voice and data
  • 4G: for broadband
  • 5G: fuses computing capabilities with communications; built on high-frequency spectrum; faster; 100 times greater capacity than 4G

We’re still in the early days of 5G and although Vodafone launched its 5G network in July 2019, the first in the UK, 5G is still very much in its infancy.

Vodafone’s service is available in seven cities:

  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Cardiff
  • Glasgow
  • Manchester
  • Liverpool
  • London

And the network plans to add 12 more cities by the end of the year – Birkenhead, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington and Wolverhampton – and will offer 5G roaming across Germany, Italy and Spain.

 

5G: changing the everyday

The amount of mobile data we use continues to grow, increasing by more than 40 per cent in 2017 compared with 2016.

When data speeds at home are matched by those when we’re out and about, behaviour will change.

There’ll be no discernible difference in download speeds between mobile and wifi networks.

Yes, we’ll need 5G-compatible devices (a software update on a 4G phone won’t cut it) but, beyond that, what else will be different?

For a start, other consumer tech will work more efficiently. Self-driving cars, for example, will run more efficiently and safely, since they rely on a continuous stream of data, and 5G will be able to deliver that with minimal latency.

 

5G supporting infrastructure and the internet of things (IoT)

As the Internet of Things becomes more of a thing, and our towns and cities become more connected, 5G will become central to local as well as national infrastructure, and industry:

 

Will 5G change the way we watch content?

“Utilizing 5G networks, latency and buffering will be vastly reduced and organisations will be able to deliver video in hi-res, VR, AR and 360, making these services more accessible to consumers across multiple devices and platforms.” – Grabyo, London-based provider of cloud-based live video production, editing and distribution platform built for live, OTT, mobile and social.

When we don’t have access to a TV screen or laptop, the next best viewing experience is on a mobile.

In 2018, more than 75 per cent of worldwide video-viewing was via mobile. When download speeds vastly improve, consumption will accelerate.

Some say that with 5G, you won’t just be watching video – it’ll be watching you, too, as an ultra-fast, high-bandwidth connection enables content to be tailored for viewers according to their reaction to it.

Interactive video layers that use emotional analysis based on a phone’s front-facing camera, combined with an ultra-responsive connection without latency, means the network and technology would be fast enough to react to our physical responses to make real-time adjustments to the content we’re watching.

Yes, developments such as this will ensure mobile ad spends continue to grow, but where they take the debate over privacy would be anyone’s guess at this stage.

 

On the downside…

Privacy isn’t the only concern.

5G signals don’t travel well through physical barriers such as trees, walls, buildings or even, it’s been reported, in wet weather. Nor do they extend over great distances.

The obvious solution, then, is for the telecoms companies to install a lot of transmitters, but that could prove costly and take years to implement, meaning that in reality 5G globally will actually lag behind older, less sophisticated technology:

 

The future of broadcast production: what does 5G offer?

  • Higher quality production, distribution and consumption
  • More mobile and remote production, where latency is the biggest barrier
  • More efficient workflows

 

“We’re definitely looking at 5G and how it affects us,” says Dana Dar, director of market development at MX1, which she describes as “primarily a satellite company” and is a wholly owned subsidiary of SES, the global satellite owner and operator.

“Although we do offer satellite solutions – satellite, fibre and IP – 5G is something that we’re definitely seeing our customers excited about, regarding remote productions and how that’s going to change their workflows.

“5G will definitely change how production and contribution is done but I still think there’s room for some kind of hybrid solutions that make the best use of all the different technologies out there on the contribution side, and definitely on the end-user distribution.”

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