5G-MEC Helps Propagate NextGen TV Signals For Mobile Broadcasting And OTT In Korea

With help from their U.S. counterparts at Sinclair Broadcasting Group (SBG), the second-largest television station operator in the U.S., South Korean broadcasters are working on a terrestrial ultra-high-definition (UHD) 4K broadcasting network to be deployed in 2023. It’s all part of a state project that is being funded by SK Telecom, a top mobile carrier in Seoul, and supported by Cast.era, a joint venture between the Korean mobile carrier and Sinclair.

SKT said the integrated broadcasting services are based on 5G Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), artificial intelligence (AI) technology and cloud virtualization technology. Among a number of automated features, AI technology will be used to restore old low-resolution TV series and movies to high-resolution content.

The group is looking to help UHD signal propagate better by leveraging 5G spectrum as the backchannel for interactive services and OTT-delivered video on demand, employing SK Telecom’s spectrum in combination with proprietary spectrum efficiency technology developed by Arlington, Virginia-based Cast.era. The eventual goal is to allow drivers to watch video inside a moving cars while helping connected cars manage vehicle-to-everything (V2X) features via terrestrial broadcasting facilities.

The strategy is to use 5G-based MEC implemented at cellular base stations and edge nodes, to enable rapid deployment of new applications and services with low latency. Using this method, network congestion can be reduced and applications show better performance, as data is processed at edge nodes physically located near cellular consumers. Thus far they have applied these 5G-ATSC 3.0 solutions to Sinclair's Washington, D.C. television station WJLA-TV and experimentation is on-going.

Cast.era said it intends to build a cloud infrastructure for ATSC 3.0 broadcasting by applying SK Telecom's cloud technologies including mobile edge computing, cloud structure management technology named “SKT All Container Orchestrator (TACO)” and virtual network solution, called “Simply Overlay Network Architecture (SONA)” to Sinclair's terrestrial broadcasting systems. SK Telecom's cloud infrastructure will permit virtualized and automated merging of both Internet and broadcast platforms using centralized services. Based on MEC technologies, Cast.era plans to introduce new media services applied with augmented reality.

Cast.era will also focus on introducing ultra-low latency OTT broadcasting services based on SK Telecom's mobile MPEG Media Transport (MMT) technologies that enable transmission of high-definition video for diverse multimedia applications, such as Sinclair's local news and sports content.

In April 2021, SKT, along with Cast.era, demonstrated the 5G-NextGen TV combined broadcasting service in the southern resort island of Jeju, South Korea. The trials began with a transmission from Las Vegas to Jeju Island using NextGen TV RF transmitters and new digital antennas.

South Korea’s Korea Radio Promotion Association (RAPA) has opened a NextGen TV testing facility on Jeju Island that is now available to international broadcasters, telecoms, and broadcast equipment vendors.

South Korea’s Korea Radio Promotion Association (RAPA) has opened a NextGen TV testing facility on Jeju Island that is now available to international broadcasters, telecoms, and broadcast equipment vendors.

The tests were conducted in collaboration with South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT, Korea Communications Commission (KCC), Korea Radio Promotion Association (RAPA), Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, Korean broadcasters, and the partner companies mentioned above.

Representatives at SKT said that commercialization of the next-generation broadcasting services will involve upconverting the content library of public broadcaster KBS, from high-definition (1920x1080p) to 4K UHD (3840 × 2160) using an AI-based HD upscaler to create high-quality videos in real-time. 

Reaching mobile users is key with the new terrestrial UHD broadcasting network critical to all broadcasters’ success. Research data predicts that the global OTT market will reach $149.34 billion this year. Kevin Gage, COO at Cast.era said that these solutions will help accelerate U.S. broadcasters’ deployment of next-generation TV broadcasting services into the market.

The new technologies will also enable OTA datacasting and live TV broadcast via OTT to home viewers and those on the go with minimal lag in transmission time. The technology also dynamically inserts personalized ads for each OTT viewer during commercial breaks. Datacasting, another important capability that NextGen TV offers broadcasters, makes it possible to distribute large amounts of data along with TV broadcast signals.

“We expect to deliver a new experience to U.S. TV viewers through ATSC 3.0-based broadcasting services that combine the strengths of mobile and broadcasting networks,” said Lee Jong-min, Vice President and Head of Tech Innovation Group of SK Telecom. 

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