Written by Hans Brand and Ralf Neudel, IRT

5G, what is it all about?

Following the latest news from the mobile industry, 2019 is getting ready to become the break-through year for 5G. Smartphone manufacturers present new 5G-capable devices and telecom equipment providers are announcing the roll-out of 5G networks around the globe.

With huge technology potential behind 5G, it is often portrayed as the next evolution of digitisation that could again transform many businesses. At the same time, many experts call for expectation management. Up to now, there is not really a common understanding of what 5G will exactly deliver and especially when. This is quite understandable since the standardisation of 5G by 3GPP (like other specifications before) is progressing iteratively and is fixed in overlapping release cycles while marketing machinery is in full operation. Even the line between 4G and 5G stays a bit blurry, as, at least in the first phases, 5G will heavily rely on features of earlier 3GPP releases for many functionalities.

Back to our opening question: 5G, what is it all about? Of course, from a sheer consumers’ perspective, users will particularly benefit from increased bandwidth and improved latency in the 5th generation of mobile networks. These features will contribute to the development of new applications for augmented/virtual reality and video streaming of UHD and 360-degree content.

But the scope of 5G obviously goes far beyond that. 5G does not only focus on faster network connections for personal devices but also aims at the ubiquitous connectivity of objects, machines and infrastructures. Moreover, manufacturers, researchers and lately also politicians, promise that – in addition to faster connections – many other applications will benefit from 5G’s new features, and for some industries, 5G has the potential to enable completely new and disruptive operator and business models.

In particular, the application areas around automated driving, Internet of Things, smart energy grids, the health sector as well as media and entertainment were identified. In 5G jargon, these domains are called “Verticals”. To provide some structuring for how the requirements of the different Verticals are about to be addressed by 5G, 3GPP defined three use case families:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) with the goal of much higher data rates than in 4G and moderate latency improvements;
  • Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) stands for a very large number of networked devices with low energy consumption. This plays a decisive role for communication with and between machines and thus for the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.
  • Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC), which is required for mission-critical systems that are particularly latency-dependent and at the same time have a need for large area coverage.

Each use case differs in terms of required data rate, range, propagation characteristics and connection stability.

In terms of numbers promised by 5G, ubiquitous data rates of 100Mbit/s, peak rates of up to 10Gbit/s, latencies of less than one millisecond are to be achieved. The network infrastructure should be designed for a ten thousand times higher network load compared to 4G networks. Furthermore, the many billions of devices to be networked with each other in the future should be able to be equipped with new 5G technology at low cost and subsequently consume as little energy as possible. Depending on the requirements of the specific Vertical’s application, different sets of characteristics are important as they were grouped in the main use case families eMBB, mMTC and URLLC. The mentioned numbers will therefore mostly not be realised in combination. Any specific application will eventually also require the availability of sufficient spectrum in an appropriate frequency range which again depends on the required characteristics.

5G offers enormous opportunities for the entire media industry

So, what is in it for the media industry at large with the advent of 5G? This new technology not only provides the data highway for new innovative and interactive content, but it can also be a driver for new services and production workflows.

Mobile content contribution can be simplified with the ability of flexible and dynamic contribution from a recording site to the studio. For the next generation of media production, completely wireless IP-based studio infrastructures are envisioned, wireless microphones and headsets, as well as cameras, could directly be connected over 5G technology in the future. This could also bring a completely new level of freedom to productions in the field or during live events. The virtualization of the control room and studio paves the way for a complete production – potentially enabled by a distributed low-latency edge cloud – as part of a future 5G network.

At the other end of the media chain, with changing user behaviour and ever-growing data rates of super-high-quality content, new solutions for content distribution are also urgently required for delivering compelling and reliable media experiences to the consumer anywhere at any given time. Concepts for large-scale distribution of content in the broadcast mode as part of a 5G network are already being explored today in projects such as 5G TODAY. The distribution of massive amounts of on-demand and personalised content at an affordable price is already proving to be one of the next big challenges for 5G infrastructures.

A major advantage of 5G is that future network infrastructures can be shared for different scenarios by partitioning them into virtual networks tailored to the users’ needs according to data rate, speed and capacity. In 5G this is called “Network Slicing” and it also enables new business models for platform operators, service providers as well as content producers.


MediaRoad sees itself at the crossroads of media technology, creativity and innovation and brings together stakeholders from all these domains to foster collaboration. To discuss the potential and challenges that 5G brings to the media industry, we are organising a two-day conference at IRT in Munich on the 8th and 9th of May 2019. The event targets broadcast experts and decision makers focusing on media production/distribution, media innovation managers and researchers. Information about the conference is available at our website, you can also go directly to the registration page.

Photo credit: Caspar Camille Rubin

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