Broadcasters Ready For 5G Adoption

Broadcasters are far more upbeat about the impact 5G mobile networks will have on their services than they were in the case of 4G when that was introduced around a decade ago.

The difference now is that the battles to defend spectrum from being reallocated from digital terrestrial to cellular have subsided and there is an acceptance that broadcasting will converge with IP transmission around 5G as viewing on mobile devices continues to increase. As a result, 92 per cent of broadcasters now believe they will be ready to adopt 5G inside their own services within the next two years, and 39 per cent in the next year, according to a global poll by virtualized media production firm Nevion. Then 94 per cent believe their countries have the infrastructure in place now for 5G adoption, similar to the proportion ready for it themselves.

However the survey, conducted by OnePoll, found that only 46 per cent of broadcasters have yet tested 5G’s capabilities within their organization, implying that most of the rest will surely do so over the next year.

“It’s positive that broadcasters are expecting to move forward at pace with 5G,” noted Andy Rayner, Chief Technologist, Nevion. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done before it can be implemented into live environments, and given the current climate worldwide, testing and developments may have slowed down. Over the next year or so, it will be a case of broadcasters looking in earnest at the potential of 5G in the value chain and testing the technology’s capabilities within their organizations.”

The survey also drilled down into intended prospective use cases for 5G in broadcasting. Almost two thirds, 65 per cent, said they would consider it for remote production, while 61 per cent expressed interest in using 5G for distribution as a potential replacement for DTT, satellite or cable. Then 33 per cent would consider 5G for OTT services and 29 per cent for video contribution from the field. A larger proportion than that, 29 per cent think that 5G’s biggest role will be in providing a cost effective back-up for video contribution.

One slightly surprising finding was that only one third would consider 5G for OTT services, since this has been thought to be a leading use case, especially in areas where the higher capacity and performance will make cellular a superior option in some cases to terrestrial broadband. In those cases 5G could provide high capacity FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) delivery. However, this relatively low figure probably reflects the expectation that terrestrial broadband combined with WiFi will remain the most popular medium for high quality streaming in the immediate future.

Relevant technology vendors have also been preparing for the arrival of 5G and disruption it will cause to traditional broadcasting sectors, combined with changes in viewing and content proliferation. Broadcasters are covering more live events from the field at a time when their budgets are being squeezed in many cases, encouraging them to seek lower cost alternatives to traditional expensive outside broadcast (OB) systems such as satellite trucks. 5G is ready to underpin such alternatives and Grass Valley is one vendor that has been arguing it will transform sports production in particular by making it possible both to cover more events remotely with fewer or no specialist staff, as well as provide more alternative views in larger venues.

Grass Valley has like others also been promoting its at-home and remote production capabilities where only cameras are needed on-location during the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus crisis. For example, the company’s DirectIP camera functionality allows broadcast base stations to be located up to 20,000 kilometers (12,500 miles) away from the camera. Base station here is the central unit connecting remote cameras in the field, not the radio head attached to masts in each cellular cell with the same name. This means most members of a production team, such as replay operators and directors, can avoid travelling to the event venue and instead monitor operations from the base station.

Although 5G will provide much higher bandwidth and capacity at lower latency than its 4G/LTE predecessor, it will still require assistance from suitable transmission protocols to ensure efficient delivery of signals without degradation. This is where streaming protocols such as Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) and Reliable Internet Stream Transport (RIST) come in by facilitating efficient retransmission of lost or corrupted IP packets without adding significantly to round trip delay. This can be complemented by techniques that shape traffic and monitor for peaks and troughs provided by various vendors such as Sweden’s Net Insight, which argues that with the help of these 5G will engineer a significant shift from satellite for remote production generally, freeing up capacity for distribution where it is more effective. And while fiber will remain the gold standard for high quality production from fixed venues in the field, especially in Ultra HD, it will be too expensive for an expanding number of smaller events where again 5G will provide good enough connectivity, where necessary enhanced through bonding of multiple circuits.

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