SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: 5G networks are set to roll out commercially around the globe from 2020.
The current world TV market served by satellite, IPTV, cable and terrestrial broadcast service providers is worth an estimated US$500 billion. However, analysts are predicting that 5G network technology will start taking on established TV mediums, with 5G TV being a key component of the service from very early on. With super-fast chip technology allowing up and downlink speeds of up to 20 Gbps, the mobile network will soon provide the ideal environment for TV broadcasts.
In a nutshell, fifth-generation wireless, or 5G, has been engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks, about 100 times faster than 4G. With 5G, data is transmitted over wireless broadband connections at high speed and offers latency of 1 ms or lower for uses that require real-time feedback. 5G vastly increases the amount of data transmitted over wireless systems due to more bandwidth being available and the development of advanced antenna technology. With these advancements and shifts in technology, recent tests have shown that the 5G network will be able to support 1Gbps data throughput rates. This raw speed would provide the ideal environment for TV broadcasts. Added to the increased performance, 5G brings the obvious benefit of mobility. TV content providers will be able to easily transmit to mobile devices without the need for a fixed internet connection.
At 10 gigabits a second, 5G can send a full-length high-definition movie to a device in about four seconds. It also paves the way for the “internet of things,” where devices from light bulbs to traffic lights, fridges to soil moisture testers can talk to each other and react when asked. The technology industry is counting on the new capabilities that 5G is going to offer and will be instrumental in the development of self-driving vehicles , drones, and other machines that transmit massive amounts of data in real-time and use artificial intelligence. The likes of Samsung are working on 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solutions, which will utilise next-generation network technology to provide faster-than-fibre broadband services to the home. Huawei revealed its WTTx 2.0 wireless broadband solution last year, which similarly provides a home broadband service using mobile network technology.
5G is seen as a next-generation technology for cellular phones, but its potential for delivering camera signals wirelessly cannot be understated. This year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, highlighted perhaps the most advanced deployment of 5G seen yet. Intel, Korea Telecom and Toyota installed a commercial 5G network to test the technology needed to carry live video. The system, comprising 22 5G links at 10 different sites, delivered 3 800 terabytes of data during the two-week event. The companies involved built four main test cases to show off the technology, including a system that used hundreds of cameras to capture ice-skating athletes – footage was then broadcast in real-time to virtual reality viewers. Viewers could use the setup to select different locations from which to view the action and could also pause and replay specific parts of the performance. Other test cases used connected Toyota automobiles and transmitted high-resolution pictures of cross-country skiers. Thanks to the extremely low latency (almost zero delay) of 5G, tiny fixed lens cameras were fitted to the front of Olympic bobsleighs to offer a driver’s eye view of the descent down the twisting icy track which was then cut into the live HD production. But perhaps the most visible use of 5G technology during this year’s winter Olympics involved a fleet of 300 Intel drones flying in formation during the event’s opening and closing ceremonies.
Intel has already partnered with Japanese mobile phone operator Docomo and has plans to demonstrate 360-degree, 8K-video streams and smart eHealth equipment that leverages 5G technologies including artificial intelligence that can be used by the athletes for training during the summer Olympics in 2020. Their 5G platforms will be used to demonstrate how 5G will massively transform communications through the next decade.
FOX Sports, the Fox Innovation Lab and partners Ericsson, Intel and AT&T, used 5G technology to stream 4K video over 5G for potential broadcast nationwide at this year’s 118th U.S. Open Championship in June. 5G wireless technology was used for the first time in a top-tier golfing event to transmit 4K HDR images from two FOX Sports cameras positioned on the challenging par-3 seventh hole at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club to the FOX Sports production truck. This ‘test’ was a powerful example of how production companies can reduce live production costs, while enabling ultra-high-definition broadcasting to scale. It also showcased on how the high-speed and low-latency delivered by this trial allowed the cameras to move without being restricted by cables and created a unique filming environment.
The World Cup in Russia saw a huge leap in 5G technology testing when the Morocco vs Iran game was streamed in virtual reality over a 5G real-time stream. The Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg was fitted with high-definition cameras that broadcast the game over a 5G connection to residents of Moscow, some 600 kilometres away. Built especially for the games, the Russian capital’s 5G zone allowed supporters to switch to different camera views as they watched the match in real-time with virtual reality glasses. Again, the near zero latency transmission tests showed, beyond doubt, that 5G is going to provide sport content producers with a whole new range of options, thanks to its game changing technology.
5G is not only going to enable mobile operators to deliver superior and standardised television services over their networks to a large number of mobile users. It could also potentially enable the broadcasting of high quality TV content to domestic TV receivers as a replacement for traditional broadcast services. There are few areas of innovation that have the power to define the future of our economy and the way we live more than the amazing development and pending roll out of 5G technology. With 10Gbps connections in the field, a one millisecond end-to-end round trip delay and 90 per cent reduction in network energy usage, what’s not to get excited about – let’s hope it’s worth the wait!