What will 5G mean for the broadcast industry and OTT services?


In the media production world, delivering content is a considerable logistical challenge. For user generated content, reliable and uncontended bandwidth is key, however more often than not poor network results in low quality content and a frustrated end user.

5G promises to help with this, allowing for faster data rates, which will fundamentally change how and where we consume content. Figures for speeds vary, but the ITU IMT-2020 standard points to speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second. By way of some context, this will give users the ability to download a full HD movie in less than 10 seconds on a 5G network, compared to over 10 minutes on a current 4G set up.

The technology builds on the 3G and 4G mobile standards, dramatically expanding the amount of data processed between devices using the network. Currently, using 4G networks, latency is typically around 40-50 milliseconds. 5G promises to chop this delay to one millisecond or less, making it practically undetectable to the user.

Telcos are already deploying trial networks and results from medium-scale deployments are promising. However, as with any emerging technology that requires a large in-field infrastructure change, ramping up from trial stages to consumer-scale offerings will take significant funding and time.

One of the main attractions of 5G to broadcasters and OTT services is that the next generation of networks will enjoy greater capacity, meaning systems will be able to cope better with running several high-demand applications concurrently. From VR/AR experiences to simultaneous HD video streaming, 5G can support several high level uses cases at the same time.

Industry reports vary, but around 60% of mobile consumption today is video, and that is only going to increase over the next few years. Viewing habits are changing – consumers want content on the move and on a plethora of devices without any interruption or impact to the sound or viewing quality.

A co-authored report released towards the end of last year by Ovum and Intel estimated that the global media industry is set to benefit from $765bn in collective revenues from new applications and services enabled by 5G.

The report highlights how the impact of 5G will go far beyond simply enhancing the mobile media experience to significantly disrupt the media and entertainment business models thanks to new network capabilities. Media revenues will more than double to $420bn in 2028 (from $170nbn in 2018) as a result, according to the report.

However, while 5G will ultimately bring content and audiences closer together, the technology will offer more than just higher speeds and enhanced experiences for consumers. One of the most significant capabilities built into 5G standards is mobile edge computing, which will present enormous opportunities for the media and entertainment sector for services requiring much lower levels of latency and improved distribution of network content.

Mobile edge computing will enable local content storage, thereby reducing the cost of transportation and making it easier for operators and content providers alike to efficiently provide targeted, localised content. As a result, this will allow for the delivery of immersive, live content experiences with new business models in large scale public venues such as stadiums and festivals where today data traffic flow is hampered by limited capacities.

We’ve already seen the impact of 5G for live events in this way through sports and e-sports, including at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where Korea Telecom (KT) implemented the world’s first 5G-trial service.

In collaboration with a number of partners, KT provided viewers with a live feed from the viewpoint of athletes competing in the bobsleigh event, the fastest sport in the Winter Olympics. This involved drilling and embedding a sync camera into the front of the bobsleigh and capturing and transmitting footage from this in real time via 5G module connectivity.

So while the timeframes for complete widespread adoption of 5G are still to be revealed, what is clear is that the scope of capabilities for enhancing customer experiences and integration across a whole host of different industries are almost infinite. And ultimately, this is what matters most to consumers.