​As 4G Reaches Limits, 5G Is Being Primed For Video: MVA Has A View

The acceleration of mobile technology development and ultimately 5G networks could enable the wider use of cellular networks for live and on-demand video delivery, to mobiles as well as a viable alternative to fixed broadband to households. Equinix, part of the Mobile Video Alliance (MVA), provides its view to The Broadcast Bridge.

The Mobile Video Alliance (MVA) is an industry working group originally formed with mobile operator EE and now operating under the auspices of DTG, the UK industry association for digital television. The MVA is the forum where players across the mobile video ecosystem come together to discuss issues including delivery and quality of experience and the group is actively fostering collaboration and co-operation between the digital media and mobile industries

What are the key requirements to deliver live and on-demand video over existing (4G and 4G LTE) networks?

The key requirements are bandwidth, coverage and quality of experience. Video assets or live streams will typically be delivered via network peering arrangements or a Content Distribution Network (CDN) which is ready to respond to multiple requests from a variety of mobile end users. A CDN will have a distributed network that is able to cache or stream the required file format and whose servers are mostly deployed in networks and data centres across the relevant region.

Mobile video is, at the moment, entirely unicast – services are, essentially, all OTT. To service demand, which can be very high for live sports, the key is bandwidth: in the cell and the back-haul. The launch of 4G broadcast, which the MVA anticipates soon, will dramatically increase the live capabilities of the 4G network for subscribers on enabled networks. However, it will have no impact upon on demand as LTE broadcast is not an on-demand technology.

One of the problems of mobile video has been the quality of the experience, but content providers have been working hard with network operators to address this. MVA members have formed the core of this work, with the MVA recently making public its thoughts in this area in the following document.

What are the costs and benefits of using the technology?

5G technology will allow faster and lower-latency connections than 4G which, combined with greater coverage, will offer a range of all-round performance benefits as well as the potential for many new network services especially around IoT

What are the limits of 4G LTE? Is there a bottleneck? How pressing is this? Can it be overcome with new compression perhaps?

4G broadcast can, in theory, remove the bottlenecks for live content. Live unicast, as we see just now, and on-demand will always run the risk of hitting a bottleneck, with the air interface being the most likely culprit.

As for how pressing the need for 4G broadcast is, the consumer may decide. In order to see wide-spread roll out of 4G broadcast, we would be expecting to see a strong uptake of early 4G broadcast services in large metropolitan areas. All indications are that demand will continue to increase for OTT services. We anticipate that, where 4G broadcast is deployed, extra capacity will be freed up for unicast delivery

To what extent is video and TV delivery having an impact on the shaping of 5G standards?

At the moment there are no 5G standards at all, but the aim is for 2020. The process for arriving at a standard for a 5G International Mobile Telecommunication (IMT) system is being driven by the ITU-R, this process is known as IMT 2020. 3GPP (who developed the 2G, 3G and 4G standards) is committed to the IMT 2020 timeline.

3GPP will make an initial technology submission by ITU-R WP5D meeting #32, June 2019, with a detailed specification submission to the ITU-R WP5D meeting #36, October 2020. For the latter deadline, 3GPP has decided to submit the final specifications at the ITU-R WP5D meeting in February 2020, based on functionally frozen specs available in December 2019.

3GPP is currently working on requirements for a 5G specification, and on June 23 3GPP announced four technical reports, addressing four areas of requirements for 5G:-

  • TR 22.861: FS_SMARTER – massive Internet of Things
  • TR 22.862: FS_SMARTER – Critical Communications
  • TR 22.863: FS_SMARTER – enhanced Mobile Broadband
  • TR 22.864: FS_SMARTER – Network Operation

These last two documents specifically mention the need for broadcast services able to support, for example, 4k and 8k video.

To what extent is 5G being seen as a possible substitute technology for terrestrial broadcast?

The average mobile phone network can handle live TV, catch-up and VOD alongside regular data and voice. 4G (LTE) enhances this and LTE Broadcast (eMBMS) promises to address the current scalability problems of serving big events live to millions of viewers on mobile devices. This broadcast mode is the most analogous to DTT, although mobile networks may struggle to compete with the economics and coverage of high power, high tower broadcast.

This is missing the point however, as the two technologies are not really in competition. They simply provide two routes to the same well-loved content, so you pay your money and you pick your route.

Things may, indeed, change with 5G but it’s far too soon to say.

What plans for trial and development do you have with regards to 5G?

The MVA is an industry working group and does not offer any service itself, but notes a recent forecast from Ovum which, in their latest global market study, states that 5G services will be available in more than 20 markets worldwide by the end of 2021 with 24 million subscribers.

Is net neutrality an impediment for 5G to succeed?

The MVA does not hold a particular view on this topic, but notes the recent “5G Manifesto” signed by 20 major Telcos in respect of the potential launch of 5G networks across Europe by 2020 that addresses this question.

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