Mobile Edge Computing Gaining Ground For 5G-Enabled Media Services

As 5G mobile networks become more ubiquitous, the Broadcast and OTT industries are looking to leverage the technology’s speed and low-latency advantages for the management and distribution of live content. Tech companies too are now leveraging cloud-based, edge computing services like AWS Wavelength and Google Compute Engine on the AT&T and Verizon 5G network edge to power their own software platforms and help content providers deliver live streamed sports and entertainment events.

Ultra-low latencies, some as low as 10 ms over an 80-100 MBps pipe, are critical to delivering high-quality viewing experiences on an increasingly wide range of 5G capable devices emerging in the market.

Mobile edge computing moves the data and processing done by the applications and consumer-facing services closer to the end user at the edge of the network. This shortens the roundtrip data needs to travel, reducing lag time, or latency. By moving compute and storage services to the edge of AT&T’s or Verizon’s 5G Ultra-Wideband network, broadcasters and other industries can also develop applications that support applications ranging from self-driving cars to autonomous industrial equipment.

Technology vendors that offer a software-based fabric layer allow the 5G mobile edge compute (MEC) nodes to quickly and reliably connect to the 5G network. This helps ensure a good user experience.

These types of live video orchestration and telemetry control planes enable users to manage large-scale configuration and monitoring of live streaming platforms, as well as consumer devices and appliances. Media organizations can then extend their reach, increase production speed and dramatically reduce operational costs. Users gain access to telemetry data on the network, fast signal transport, intra-cloud delivery and associated edge devices in an end-to-end workflow.

In order to really scale, if users go from 100 streams to 1,000 streams to 10,000 streams and hundreds of clients, they’ll need the ability to have views across any given organization and between organizations and manage that. 5G has extended overhead significantly, so you can really push down that latency. It has been used very successfully, as long as a producer can find the edge. Due to the inherent benefits, this combined mobile edge compute solution could predict how broadcast workflows will be performed in the near future. As cellular infrastructures take advantage of 5G advancements, mobile edge computing, which has always been used to send data in other industries, is now going to be used in broadcast TV for contribution and for delivering content directly to the consumer.

There are now a number of field trials working with a MEC to test live linear 4K and 8K broadcast media workflows for 5G production implementations using this combination of a MEC provider and special signal management software. In one such experiment, on-going field testing are showing promising results, with latency below 10 ms over an 80-100 MBps pipe.

The technology makes possible virtual control rooms, where a production team can order 10 or 20 camera sets and have curated subsets that are available to the general public. This is when sponsorship and customization begin to support real business models. There’s no question that MEC is the future of live production and contribution. There was skepticism initially but now most believe this is the way to go. By making a connection to the MEC clouds on the edge, it will become a (Verizon) gateway within the 5G network.

The industry is still learning the benefits (and challenges) of putting linear video across a 5G network. Thus far the results have been promising as technology suppliers look to help their broadcast customers streamline the process for using termination devices (like 4K 200 Mbps decoders) and WiFi networks in a hybrid infrastructure for video file delivery.

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