Speculation around 5G has been sending ripples through numerous industries for quite some time. We know it’s going to be powerful and we know it will fundamentally change the way we use technology. 5G will deliver higher connectivity and vastly increase bandwidth capabilities. British telecom giant, EE, has announced that it is expecting to reach an average speed that is roughly 100-150Mbps higher than 4G. This is likely to have a huge impact on the services broadcasters can offer.
Connectivity has been one of the primary challenges for broadcast content delivery. In most cases, users have limited options whilst on the move; slow download speeds, latency, and overloaded networks mean that the majority of enhanced features have been limited to home usage. 5G has the capacity to tackle all of these pain points. What role will 5G play in the next 5 years?
New media formats: the new normal
Over the years, we have witnessed emerging technologies gain traction amongst wider audiences, however these innovative formats are often data-heavy and have faced challenges (such as buffering) that have prevented users from enjoying them on-the-go.
We anticipate that the following entertainment forms will see a particular rise in popularity following 5G’s rollout:
- Holographic video: Imagine watching your favourite show in true 3D. Holographic video could be beamed directly into your surroundings. It’s a sophisticated technology with many organisations already investing heavily in its development. Simply described, multiple cameras are used to capture a subject from different angles and all of this material is uploaded and rendered. It is a complex and expensive task which requires vast amounts of data. 5G’s increased bandwidth means that companies can streamline the development of holographic video and quickly render data that would otherwise have taken several days to process.
- E-sports: Latency has always been a primary challenge for online gaming and e-sports, where a seemingly insignificant delay could be the difference between winning and losing. Multiplayer events have been particularly exposed to bandwidth problems as large groups of gamers need to stay connected at the same time. 5G will solve these issues and as e-sports gains in popularity, broadcasters should look at ways of incorporating it into their services. Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some interesting experimentation from traditional sports organisers. The virtual Bahrain Grand Prix was watched by over 350,000 people and provided viewers with an alternative source of entertainment to the race itself.
- AR/VR: AR and VR will hugely benefit from the introduction of 5G. The majority of AR functionalities were originally developed to be used on-the-go and while production of (fashionable) wearable devices has been slow, there are rumours that several industry-leading companies are exploring the tech. Pair this with an improvement in connectivity and we are likely to see a considerable surge in the way people use AR. The majority of users love added-value content (the growing wave of second-screen usage is testament to this) so it’s easy to see how broadcasters can utilise AR to help deliver a better viewing experience.
Where will IoT factor into broadcast?
The Internet of Things already plays a central role in many people’s everyday lives. Home automation systems are widely used to control elements like lighting, temperature, and entertainment devices. The number of smart devices is expected to rise to an impressive 75.44 billion in 2025. The remote nature of IoT connectivity naturally means that it will benefit from the introduction of 5G. Broadcasters should already be looking at how they can make the most of this opportunity (in-vehicle entertainment systems, interactive billboards, and wearable products are all good examples). By incorporating these valuable features into their services, broadcasting companies can ensure a great viewing experience which will ultimately give them a competitive standing in the market.
Focus on adding value
It is important to remember that consumers will only enjoy (and reuse) features that enhance the viewing experience. If it fails at adding value, a feature can quickly become a gimmick – and gimmicks can be expensive if a company has invested heavily in the technology.
Broadcasters are wise to spend significant time evaluating what information and features they are hoping to offer – then identify where interactive technologies fit in the equation. 5G removes one of the major stresses; it will enable the delivery of content without breaks in service or extensive buffering.
User experience is at the core of every successful video streaming platform and nobody wants to leap into a new technology if delivery networks can’t cope with its demands. We’ll soon have the bandwidth needed to deliver enhanced features, but it is up to broadcasters to determine which ones will add the most value for their customers.