5G and its impact on Broadcast

5G

5G technology is something widely commented that has been here for some months now. It seems that 2021 will be the year for implementation of 5G, so let us review what this technology is about and what it is going to mean for our industry.
By Yeray Alfageme

 

The next generation of telecommunication networks (fifth generation or 5G) started to reach the market by late 2018 and has continued expanding all over the world. Everything indicates that 2021 will be the final year in which 5G technology will be fully implemented throughout the world.
Beyond increased speeds, it is expected that 5G will unleash a massive ecosystem of IoT (Internet of Things) where networks will be able to meet the communication needs of virtually billions of interconnected devices, achieving high performance with regards to speed, latency and cost.

More specifically, the 5G technology relies on 8 essential pillars:
– Speed up to 10Gbps – > 10 to 100 times faster that 4G and 4.5G networks.
– 1 millisecond latency.
– Capacity 1,000 faster per antenna.
– Up to 100 times more devices connected per antenna (as compared to 4G LTE networks).
– 99.999% availability.
– 100% coverage.
– 90% reduction in network energy consumption.
– Up to 10 years battery duration in low-power IoT devices.

 

Aside from speed -which means a leap of 10-100 times faster than 4G and 4.5G networks, what does make a difference is latency. While in 4G networks response latency of a device against the network was about 200ms under optimal conditions, in 5G networks latency is as low as 1 millisecond, the same as in an Ethernet network and even better than WiFi networks.
Let us make a comparison in order to get an idea of what this may come to mean. Reaction time of a human being is about 250ms, being as low as 190ms in F1 drivers. If we compare these 250ms with the millisecond that a 5G network can take to respond, this should give us an idea of how fast it really is. Imagine that a connected car can react a quarter of a second faster than us when facing an incident on the road. This could save countless lives.

 

5G vs. 4G

Although the 4G networks meant a real boost to mobile Internet, 5G is the next step towards IoT (Internet of Things) where everything –basically everything- is connected to the Net, thus changing the concept of connectivity we had known up to now.

The main differences between 4G and 5G are:
– Low latency. As we have mentioned before, this is a vital feature, for instance, for driverless cars.
– Higher device density. A 5G network can support up to 1 million devices per square kilometer. This may seem a lot, but sure we will fall short as it happened with iPv4 addresses.
– Low power consumption, enabling simple devices such as sensors to stay connected for months or even years under today’s battery technology.
Present-day IoT services actually mix existing technologies, such as 4G and Bluetooth, in order to provide something similar to what is expected from an IoT service. However, 5G is bound to be what will bring about large improvements and allow everything to remain connected permanently.

 

Uses of 5G

With the arrival of the 5G technology we will be able to make use of the network of networks in environments or configurations that up to now were just unthinkable. For instance, having a 4G network outside our home and a WiFi network inside will no longer be required as the 5G network itself can provide both services without detriment to reliability, security or interoperability that WiFi offers today as compared to a 4G network.

Putting everything on a time line:
– Fixed wireless access arrived in 2018. Access to the 5G network for fixed devices.
– Mobile broadband, a network in replacement of 4G already appeared in 2019 but it will be in 2021 when its deployment will be widespread.
– Mass access to IoT will arrive by 2022, if devices and applications that are ready for use are available.
– Low-latency IoT communications, from 2024 onwards.

For this reason, applications as striking as the above-mentioned driverless vehicles must wait a few years to become a reality.
What we will definitely be seeing shortly is an explosion of Big Data, as 5G networks enable much faster collection and larger amounts of data.

 

5G and mobile carriers

Up to now, a mobile carrier would provide a connectivity service for voice and data over a proprietary network with a number of applications on it, but –somewhat oversimplifying- little else. With the arrival of 5G, mobile carriers will turn from providers of infrastructures and basic services into developers of network services and applications oriented to IoT or to super-connectivity of a large number of devices.
Let us reflect for a moment on how many devices we have at present connected to a 4G network: basically our mobile phones. But with 5G, not only our mobile phones will be connected, but also our watches, computers, land-line phones, virtual assistants or even our pacemakers or insulin pumps. Incredible, isn’t it? A major challenge for carriers will be to make existing 3G and 4G networks compatible with the new 5G network, which might also be a problem for regulators, as they scramble to find solutions to allocation and distribution of frequencies.

 

And what about security?

As more devices are connected -virtually everything will be- one of the main and reasonable concerns that may come to mind is security. It is obvious that the higher the connectivity, the higher the exposure and the higher the risk, but the network itself has security implementations that are much stronger than the current ones. Basically, 5G networks will make use of the most advanced security protocols available in Cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud, which are more than proven and highly secure.

 

5G and Broadcast

Our industry is regarded as one of the main pillars in the 5G era. This technology can enhance the mobile experience and offer users unlimited consumption of contents. This idea has been around since the introduction of LTE, but it has been recently improved through the 3GPP group by means of versions 14 and 15 as further evolved multimedia broadcast multicast service or “FeMBMS”.
Known simply as “EnTV” or enhanced TV services, it has been designed to make broadcast of digital TV through the existing mobile networks a reality, thus providing a response to the needs of broadcasters, content providers, mobile carriers and consumers.

5G Broadcast is not only designed for live mobile TV, but also for –as we have already mentioned- mass IoT, as for instance when there is a need to distribute identical content to a large number of devices such as smart household appliances. Today’s use of streaming –by which each device is served a different version of the stream even if content is the same- is highly inefficient. 5G will enable carrying out a real broadcast as it is currently being done on IPTV networks, in which a single stream is used by multiple devices at the same time without multiplying the bandwidth in use.
This is only what concerns broadcast, but impact on capture can be huge too. Here there is a longer way to go, as both manufacturers and content producers are waiting for 5G to become a global reality before starting to develop 5G-based technologies but, in view of the increasing interest for remote production -not only because of the pandemic but also in view of the multiple options this offers- 5G could very well mark a before and an after.

And we are not talking only about connected cameras with broadband widths that will enable transmission of images with extremely low compression rates, no latency and from anywhere with a reliability equivalent to fiber-connected devices; but also about 100% virtualized production environments whereby replay servers, graphics, arrays and, of course, even video and audio mixing consoles can be made virtual and each and every operator –all of them connected to a network of the global Intercom, without any delay, could operate, regardless or where they are located.

I know the previous paragraph requires a lot of imagination –or not-, but we must be ready as everything we have imagined is technically feasible and will most probably provide improved quality of contents being broadcast, which is ultimately the purpose of all this.

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