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5G and The Media Industry

[Berlin Skyline TV Tower River Spree]

5G will impact the distribution and consumption of media. One of the challenges broadcasters could face in terms of a 5G infrastructure is that some of the technology required for flexibility in broadcast is reliant on service providers also seeing it as a viable element to make available within their portfolio of offerings. One of the specific areas for broadcast that we’re hopeful about is what we call quality of service. That’s the concept where in 5G there is the potential of what’s called network slicing, you can define a network slice and the parameters in which that network slice operates and the quality of service. That means you’ll be able to achieve something you would have never been able to achieve on any wireless connectivity to date. And that’s a guarantee of bandwidth.

That guarantee is key for new broadcast techniques such as remote production. The dream for broadcasters is the ability to arrive at an event with a number of cameras and microphones, and that’s it – you’re on air. You can do it all through a remote gallery. Suddenly, lots of things become viable for broadcasters that haven’t been viable before. And that’s a key thing. Where a broadcaster wouldn’t have dreamed of doing multi camera coverage of an event, if they can literally roll up 30 minutes before with half a dozen cameras, everything’s completely self contained over wireless internet, that’s an immensely powerful proposition. 5G will help democratise the process of broadcast production as 5G is much cheaper to work with than satellite or fibre.
In terms of distribution. 

There are areas of 5G that need to be differentiated. One is the bandwidth, reach and latency of download-based media which 5G makes much easier. There are two tenets of 5G that are important for linear consumption. One of those is the concept of some of the recent advances in the technology toolkit of 3G PP, allowing effectively proper broadcasts – many consumers of the same stream, which obviously is a significant departure from the traditional mobile infrastructure requirement. 

A lot of people are seeing 5G as possibly the replacement of digital terrestrial television transmission in general. If you talk to key broadcasters, broadcasters are looking to Internet-based delivery as the main channel to the consumer in the next 10 years. Digital satellite, digital terrestrial, digital cable, whilst they are the main tenets of getting to our key audience at the moment, they are going to diminish significantly. There will still be requirements for efficient multicast to consumers and the use of the 5G technology toolkit outside of the service provider offering of 5G is something that’s of interest to broadcasters in that space. 

In 2019, Sony released a Cloud-based vision switcher that’s actually fully integrated with their radio cameras, that’s actually one of the most exciting glimpses of the future, because it’s a Cloud-based production environment you can run just from a browser on your laptop or your tablet. It’s radio cameras that are already enabled, they’re pushing back into a Cloud-based infrastructure so you don’t need any hardware at all as a broadcaster. That’s kind of a real glimpse of where we may be heading and obviously as the tech evolves, we will be able to do that kind of work on a more expensive scale, at an even higher quality, with even more features. 

Does that then mean that fibre and satellite have had their day? Well, that’s very controversial. I think for delivery to the consumer there’s going be a mixed model for a long time, 5G will become more and more pervasive within that. At the moment, most people want to consume a few 10s of megabits per second at home, and by far the most reliable, and even affordable way, of doing that has been by some kind of physical connectivity be that a DSL, or cable service or whatever. And I guess for a long time to come, if you’re fixed at home then probably some kind of fixed infrastructure is still going to be a good way to do that. 

We are going to see more of a seamless blend of the way you consume content. The concept that your devices are automatically using either mobile bandwidth or Internet will become more of a behind the scenes blend in terms of the data delivery. There is certainly potential for 5G to oust traditional infrastructure for outside broadcast – in particular SNG, once we have a reliable and consistent enough broadcast capable infrastructure on 5G, but that does rely on some of these bells and whistles being available because we need to move from a best efforts world to a guaranteed world.



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