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Achieving 2020 vision with 5G and UHD

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MediaKind’s CTO and head of strategy, Mark Russell, discusses the opportunities that 5G will provide the broadcast market as it embraces immersive and Ultra High Definition content.  

Over the last 10 years we’ve witnessed a series of dramatic shifts in TV and media that have resulted in largely changed consumer expectations. Today’s consumers have become increasingly demanding in three main expectations: mobility, control, and immersive viewing experiences.

Viewers expect to receive content across multiple devices – often simultaneously – enabling them to set their own viewing schedules, be in control of what they watch and have access to their favourite content in increasingly life-like, immersive picture quality. They want to be on the verge of being part of the action on-screen, regardless of the device being used.

Network – 5G delivery

In response to this shift towards personalised viewing, we are witnessing the simultaneous growth of new emerging media technology offerings, which are faster, smarter and more agile. These heightened consumer expectations are helping to drive innovation in the media space and new technologies for delivering high quality, immersive content efficiently with low latency – such as 5G – are now a fundamental requirement for broadcasters looking to appeal to today’s consumers.

With the huge surge in popularity for live online video, we can see that the increasing adoption of 5G will play a fundamental role in delivering efficient TV everywhere services to bandwidth-hungry consumers.

There is an opportunity to drive transformative change in how video is created, distributed and consumed by increasing the volume and speed of services, connectivity and network efficiency. Ericsson ConsumerLab’s latest report on ‘5G Consumer Potential’, showed that 60% of today’s mobile data usage comes from video consumption, with 5G offering the opportunity and capability to evolve video from its current state into more immersive formats.

Several leading telcos have begun testing out their 5G networks in smaller regions or cities, while operators and streaming giants are already planning to take advantage of the lower latency and increased bandwidth opportunities that 5G will bring. With rising volume and types of video traffic emerging, 5G has the potential to underpin the convergence between mobility, social and broadband.

5G contribution

In terms of contribution, 5G represents a dual opportunity to complement the existing methods of today and enhance the outside broadcast landscape through the way Ultra High Definition (UHD) content is delivered. For instance, we may see 5G help resolve some of the real-time challenges of delivering flawless live 4K content, such as real-time conversion between 4K HLG and HEVC formats. Another possibility might see a combination of 5G and LTE networks to help live broadcast events from mobile devices to TV channels.

As an accompaniment to existing mechanisms, 5G can clearly enable enhanced content creation, distribution and consumption behaviours. By removing the limitations of satellite connectivity, the rollout of 5G will enable broadcasters to have the freedom and the ability to experiment more with new media experiences and ways of delivering content. There are numerous immersive possibilities, from 4K/8K videos featuring 360 views of a racing car from the driver’s perspective, to real-time Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) gaming experiences.

Delivering UHD over 5G

Within the media industry, we will start to see more use-cases coming through and more experimentation. All eyes will be on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where 5G is set to play an integral role in how the content is broadcast, distributed and delivered and how visitors and athletes will stay connected during the Games through the predicted increase in 5G connected smartphones and wearables – particularly after the success of live trials during the 2018 Winter Olympics.

5G represents a real opportunity to enhance existing methods of distribution for all content but will be particularly beneficial for UHD. As the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will show, for outside broadcasting productions, the growth of 5G can offer a more cost effective and flexible alternative to satellite uplinks for the delivery of UHD content and immersive viewing experiences, such as 360-degree live streaming or VR.

UHD – the future is immersive and on your TV screen

Despite the growth of over-the-top services and live social media content, consumers still want high-quality immersive picture on all their devices – including their main TV set. According to a recent report from Conviva, even with the increase in streaming, one of the largest growth segments from Q1 2018 to Q1 2019 was the connected TV, which grew the fastest of any device at 74% year-over-year.

The immediate challenge for operators and content creators is to meet the demand for native 4K content that can be displayed at 4K resolution. By greatly reducing bandwidth requirements as the technology becomes more mainstream, the demand for richer picture quality will rapidly increase and we will see an array of next-generation immersive UHD services coming to market.

Harmonising the viewing experience

To create and deliver truly immersive media means providing new levels of realism and taking consumer-based picture-quality to new heights. UHD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) viewing can provide a greater image detail, superior resolution and technologies that offer the deepest and brightest lowlights, highlights and colours. It extends to 360-degree VR and AR media-based applications, which are helping to enhance the viewing experience and amplify the power of video.

The arrival of 5G will ultimately be the harbourer of modern media experiences, providing the means for delivering UHD content to both traditional TV sets and varieties of second screen devices. By creating much more realistic and compelling offerings, operators and content creators can redefine the viewing experience, captivate audiences and bring together everyone everywhere.

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