By Arun Bhikshesvaran, CMO, MediaKind
The shift towards online video is gathering pace, underlined by the continued growth in video traffic in mobile networks. According to the June 2018 Ericsson Mobility Report, mobile video traffic is forecast to grow by around 45 percent annually through 2023 to account for 73 percent of all mobile data traffic. The rise in the number of devices used to watch streamed content, listen to music and access social media content has helped to rapidly increase viewing time, the amount of embedded video in other media and the evolution towards higher resolutions.
If we look at the future of broadcast media, we can see that 5G has the potential to revolutionize the way sport and media entertainment will be created, as well as driving a wider range of machine-type communications, ranging from logistical operations and smart meters, through to remote operations and smart city applications. In the next 12 months, we will see broadcasters experiment with new ways of delivering content and new media experiences. The wireless streaming of live 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) contribution video at sporting events is helping to drive a revolution in how video is created, distributed and consumed. Further down the line, we could see body cams on athletes or racing car drivers offering real-time virtual reality (VR) experiences which bring viewers closer to the real thing.
On the consumption side, the combined effect of such live productions delivered on multiple screens using the best possible delivery mechanism opens up new opportunities to engage people and provide new viewing experiences. 5G can play a key role in delivering such experiences over either fixed-wireless last-mile connections or full portability in mobile-first societies.
Delivering 4K over 5G at 2018 US Open
5G represents a real opportunity to complement existing methods of contribution today and offers the potential to enhance the Outside Broadcast (OB) landscape through the way Ultra High Definition (UHD) content is delivered. Innovators in the broadcast space are already testing this potential and gaining an understanding of the challenges and methods needed to make it a reality. For instance, while pre-produced content in 4K is already increasing in availability, this is not the case for live events. Live content requires everything to work flawlessly in real-time so 5G can help solve some of the challenges. As an accompaniment to existing mechanisms, 5G can clearly enable enhanced content creation, distribution and consumption behaviors and we can see this in the way that is being pursued by the likes of AT&T and Verizon.
Earlier this year, we worked alongside FOX Sports, Fox Innovation Lab, Intel, AT&T and Ericsson to stream 4K HDR video over 5G, during this year’s U.S. Open Championship for broadcast nationwide. This was the first large scale test which looked at how 5G and 4K video can work together to deliver immersive and highly compelling viewing experiences for viewers. This demonstration showed that the technology worked in an actual live environment, as previously it had only been tested in closed lab tests without the unpredictability of any OB. The most significant takeaway from the trial was that all the technology elements worked as expected with extremely low latency and no packet loss. This included challenging tasks such as real-time conversion between 4K HLG and HEVC formats. The success of this test also highlighted the new viewing experiences that 5G and 4K can deliver when paired together. You can see an example of this demonstration below.
High performance 5G networks = immersive consumer experiences
In short, 5G represents the next generation of mobile communications networks, enabling service providers and operators to realize the long-term potential of untapped access to information and sharing of data. Future adoption of 5G will deliver efficient TV everywhere services to bandwidth-hungry consumers, increasing speed, volume of services and driving greater revenues. Real-life tests such as the US Open Championship 2018 are a proof-of-concept for exciting, future productions. 5G offers tremendous ability to meet a plethora of diverse needs but in terms of our industry, it will bring new mobile video content services to the fore rapidly, creating a whole new array of opportunities to increase connectivity, enhance network efficiency and dynamically meet the changing needs of today’s consumers.
While previous mobile network transitions have offered gradual extensions and services – ranging from mobile phone technology (2G) to video enabled TV (3G) today’s high-definition mobile video and gaming services (4G) – 5G has far greater potential. By enabling the convergence between mobility, social and broadband, its use cases extend across a variety of sectors, ranging from automotive and manufacturing, through to energy and healthcare. In terms of broadcast media however, the emergence of 5G will unlock a range of new tools fixed wireless access and a whole host of interactive opportunities which will deliver new and highly immersive user experiences for consumers.