The next generation for mobile communication, 5G, promises a wide range of new solutions to all sectors, including that of the media and creative industries. And indeed, 5G has the potential to substantially impact media production workflows as well as media services for the consumers.
On 8 and 9 May 2019, roughly 150 broadcast experts and decision makers focusing on media production and on content distribution as well as media innovation managers and researchers met at IRT in Munich to discuss opportunities and challenges for specific 5G-related use cases within their domains. In addition, different operational models for 5G networks were discussed together with potential regulatory challenges. The event provided an in-depth overview of different scenarios and solutions for 5G.
The participants widely agreed, that 5G is expected to soon play a key role in the production as well as in the distribution of media services. At the same time, it became apparent how crucial the early and open collaboration between the different players in the market is. Only if manufacturers, infrastructure operators and equipment providers fully understand the needs of the media industry, it can be assured that 5G will become a success. Collaborative R&D projects like the ones funded by the EU under the 5G-PPP framework as well as numerous national initiatives play a key role in this process. Eventually, there’s a mutual interest that 5G will efficiently support the wider rapid evolution of the audiovisual media landscape and the ways consumers access content.
The four key promises for the media domain are: increased flexibility, lower cost, higher reliability and better quality of experience. If these goals can be met, all involved parties will profit.
Please find a detailed summary of presentations and discussions in the article below. All presentations can be found at https://www.irt.de/en/news/symposia-and-workshops/review/5g-mediaroad2019/
The event started off with an animating keynote by Antonio Arcidiacono, EBU Director of Technology and Innovation. He portrayed the Media Innovation potential in the era of 5G – which is also one of the flag themes of MediaRoad. 5G technology will become highly important both for content creation (production) and distribution. However, for 5G to be successful, in his view a cooperation of all involved stakeholders is required. He underlined the regulatory requirements public broadcasters are subject to (e.g. universal availability, free to view, reach population in emergency situations). To be sustainable, and for all stakeholders to be successful, in his vision, 5G cellular and broadcast networks should be smartly combined, making the best use of the respective strengths.
Uwe Löwenstein, Spectrum Technology Manager, Telefónica, also showed optimism on having a good solution for 5G and broadcast. He explained the overall timeline and the ongoing specification work in ITU as well as the defined spectrum requirements. The 5G action plan from the European Commission foresees 5G to be available in all urban areas in the EC in about 2025.
Rainer Liebhart (Head of 5G Solution Architecture, Nokia) covered part of the technological background. 5G will be a “giant leap”, bringing very high data rates (up to 100x faster than 4G) and very low latency (down to 10x less). The 5G technology provides a “toolbox” so that a single physical network can be used for various applications and use cases. But all 5G features cannot be reached simultaneously – there will e.g. be a trade-off between coverage and throughput. The 5G market will start to develop as an “extreme mobile broadband” – other use cases and applications will be realised later. For example, 5G markets for Machine-to-Machine communication (Internet of Things) are expected to start to develop from 2022 onwards.
Mika Skarp (Cloudstreet) covered the possibilities offered by 5G Network Slicing: a virtualized framework that allows multiple logical networks to be created atop a common, shared physical infrastructure. Network slices will make 5G network much more reliable than 4G (moving away from the current IP “best effort” paradigm). Use case specific slices with guaranteed Quality of Service can be offered to customers, matching application specific requirements e.g. high capacity downlink for UHD Video, Gaming, VR, etc. or an ultrahigh capacity up and downlink for live broadcast. Demand for such network slices is expected to rise and new business models around this service offering will appear.
Pieter Nooren (Senior Scientist, TNO) presented results from a study on 5G and net neutrality, which was developed to support the policy discussion. The study aimed at a factual technical description of mobile connectivity required in emerging applications and the mapping of net neutrality rules to this connectivity. Concluding, there is no single outcome on the alignment of 5G technology with net neutrality rules, and the technological neutrality of the regulation means that there is no a-priori ban on any 5G technology ingredient. Having said that, the topics encountered during TNO’s assessment are not exclusively related to 5G technology.
In the subsequent discussion, one important point was made clear for public service broadcasters (PSB): any use of 5G technology (appropriate network slices for public media broadcast services) will likely not be bound by net neutrality discussion or regulatory issues. The discussion also touched the matter of (loss of) network (service) control and business models (financial control), for PSBs using 5G networks operated by private companies for public media broadcast. The current economic pressure will make it financially challenging (to put it mildly) to provide PSB services via 5G in parallel to traditional broadcast networks.
Matt Stagg (Director of Mobile for BT Sport) zoomed in on how 5G can revolutionise the sports, media and entertainment industry. Major use cases are remote production (5G tech already being trialled by BT Sports for this), and outside broadcast. In their trails BT Sports demonstrated how 5G enables reliable productions from a distant studio, leading to less travel and therefor even lower carbon footprint when eventually large trucks can stay at home. At the same time, BT Sports is also innovating in the domain of the Viewing Experience, using 5G to provide users a stadium experience called “In-stadium Augmented Reality”.
Gordana Macher (Project Manager at IRT) explained the R&D work being done in the European 5G‑PPP project 5G-MEDIA, aiming at the creation of a programmable edge-to-cloud virtualization fabric for the media industry. Such a “service virtualization platform” should hide the complexity of service development, deployment on the underlying 5G network and the distributed cloud infrastructure and support orchestration of deployment and scaling of media applications, interacting with the underlying network for dynamic control of the available resources.
Dr. Andreas Wilzeck (Head of Spectrum and Innovation, Sennheiser) discussed the use cases and requirements of Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) equipment, used in many different ways by the Culture and Creative Industry (CCI). The CCI is a major driver of growth and employment. Specifically, the on-site and live use of wireless audio equipment sets high requirements to the underlying wireless network (e.g. very low latency). Sennheiser is very active in research focusing on PMSE in 3GPP technologies (4G , 5G, …); use of 5G is possible in principle but obviously a cost matter. However, the target date for implementation in technical specifications of 3GPP is currently unknown, and the availability of solutions for PMSE and the deployment are too.
In the following panel discussion, the participants underlined that a big benefit of 5G can be the transparent convergence of various network technologies as well as the potential flexibility of 5G networks for various applications in and around media production and distribution. Production costs could be lowered compared to current dedicated production infrastructures. For the introduction of 5G solutions in production, the involvement of costumers and involved production personnel is crucial at a very early stage. The psychological factor (e.g. a production employee no longer being able to simply plug in an additional cable in an OB van) is not to be neglected.
Dr. Alexander Geurtz (SES Networks) surprised the audience by explaining that the “legacy player” SES plans to take a leadership role in the 5G ecosystem. 5G represents a satellite services opportunity – satellite can support key usage scenarios for 5G, when the strengths of satellite are combined with 5G. Satellite’s ubiquitous availability can help accelerating global 5G deployment on the ground, at sea and in the air. Satellites will play an important role in proliferating 4G, 5G and legacy data networks worldwide, including also hard-to-serve, under-served and un-served areas. The short- to mid-term focus is to operationally integrate satellite backhauling into 5G. Other opportunities are being developed in several joint 5G technology innovation projects.
Dr. Nik Dimitrakopoulos (Rohde & Schwarz Automotive) portrayed car-related use cases which require reliable and high-bandwidth connectivity. He specifically focused on the issue of inefficient use of mobile spectrum, exemplary in areas with traffic jams, where currently each user accesses media and apps via unicast. He presented how applying LTE Broadcast (FeMBMS) could solve some of these issues. In addition to broadcasting media (for in-car entertainment), applications include over-the-air upgrading or patching of car software, traffic maps in navigation systems etc.
Official 5G TODAY launch event
The second day of the event started with an official ceremony, in which Dr. Florian Herrmann, Bavarian Minister of State for Federal and European Affairs and Media, jointly with Ulrich Wilhelm, General Director of Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation) and Chairman of the ARD network, formally started the operation of a unique testbed for 5G Broadcast in Bavaria. Prof. Arndt Bode, President of Bavarian Research Foundation, and representatives of all 5G TODAY project partners were involved in the successful ceremony.
Following up on the launch of the transmitter sites, representatives of the 5G TODAY project partners (IRT, Rohde & Schwarz and Kathrein) presented their work on 5G Broadcast trials based on a 3GPP technology specified in Release 14 as Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (FeMBMS). With the large-scale field trial in the Bavarian Alpine region, the project has successfully realised the world’s first dynamic single-frequency network in combination with FeMBMS.
Whereas video consumption on smartphones and tablets is a daily reality, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Reimers (Managing Director of Institut für Nachrichtentechnik (IfN) at TU Braunschweig) argued that dedicated “traditional” DVB or DAB broadcast frontends will very likely not be implemented in typical smartphones. To efficiently bring broadcast media to mobile users, IfN developed a software-based solution called Tower Overlay over LTE-Advanced+ (TOoL+). This environment was also used to support the work of the project partners in 5G TODAY.
Helwin Lesch (Head of the Distribution and Controlling, BR) shared his vision of a flexible mix of infrastructures. Distribution of media and access to media (as well as production and contribution of media) is being optimally supported by making use of the strengths of mobile networks on the one hand and broadcast networks on the other. He supported Prof. Dr. Reimers’ view that past efforts to bring broadcast to mobile devices, based on broadcast standards, have failed, but 5G Broadcast could be a relevant contribution to the broadband society. In any case, 5G Broadcast can help to reduce load on mobile networks caused by many concurrent live streams and therefore such a solution is also in the interest of Mobile Network Operators – especially now with zero-rating and true data flat rates being on the rise.
Dr. Jordi Giminez (research engineer at IRT) again underlined that using a single technology family to bring media to smartphones is crucial. The 5G-Xcast project is researching how a mixed-mode solution with dynamic switching between unicast and broadcast modes can be realized (e.g. based on number of users consuming a media, based on network conditions), with the aim of network off-loading and maintaining a stable Quality of Experience for all users. This allows a win-win situation, with the mobile industry developing a mixed mode to be incorporated in future 5G phones, having the possibility to configure a mode to deliver Terrestrial Broadcast services.
(Confused by all the different terms? In the meantime, Jordi also published an article on the status of 5G Broadcast in 3GPP, which also includes an introduction about what 5G Broadcast actually is https://lab.irt.de/5g-broadcast-in-3gpp-where-are-we/ )
Michael Wagenhofer (Managing Director, ORS) underlined the importance of broadcast features in the 5G network also for other (non-media) use cases, e.g. for emergency warnings. In his view, linear TV will remain a dominant use case for the future of video, and thus the future of broadcast will be hybrid, combining linear with on-demand content offers. Due to the competition in web-based distribution of broadcasters’ media, he foresees that 5G broadcast will play a central role in securing the long-term future of terrestrial broadcasting.
In a refreshing overview, Andrew Murphy (Lead Research Engineer, BBC R&D) informed how the 5G RuralFirst’s radio trial brought 13 live radio broadcast services to the remote Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland. 5G features were implemented based on 4G infrastructure and off the shelve equipment. Having managed also large logistic challenges, this project was successful and completed its first phase in March 2019.
In the following discussion, the panellists agreed that the general public – as well as politicians – should be better informed about the possibilities offered by 5G. In general, its features are boiled down to “faster mobile reception with higher data rates”, based on which one could expect 5G to be just another hype and fully ignore the rich media experiences being enabled by other features of the 5G technology. Having said that, it is still seems very early to talk about concrete business cases – taking into account that the roll-out of networks will take years and consumer devices are not available yet. To make 5G a success, it is crucial to raise stakeholder awareness regarding 5G Broadcast aspects, to have cooperation between mobile network operators and broadcasters and to further drive technological development (“get the chipsets into the end-user devices”) and regulation.
Representing MediaRoad, the co-organiser of the event, Ronald Mies (IRT) informed about the status of the project’s activities. 5G experts were cordially invited to participate in the ongoing stakeholder consultation on emerging technologies (5G being one of them). Their input will be used to write the update to the project’s Vision Paper, which again in turn will have an impact on the future EU Research Agenda.
Andreas Dotzler (CEO Cadami GmbH) explained, how the company’s technology uses the network’s quiet times to cache content. When there is heavy demand, Cadami then uses that cached content, combined with intelligent data transmission from the server, to minimise network usage (and avoid network congestion). Intelligent 5G infrastructures are considered to further optimise this approach.
5G will change live media experiences, and that is the business of Smart Mobile labs. Andreas Westhoff (CEO) stated that the technical features 5G offers will allow highly enhanced experiences e.g. for sports or concerts. Mobile cameras can create supplementary streams, spectators can enjoy an on-venue real-time view on their mobile devices – giving them an experience they otherwise might only have at home.
Ece Öztürk from the TU Munich spin-off Nomor Research showed the ongoing research activities as well as the technology consulting services offered by the company.
Dominique Hazael-Massieux (W3C Telecommunications Industry Champion) concluded the 2-day event. He zoomed in on the potential web-related use cases that can be supported by 5G, and on the opportunities that exist for “Web5G” due to the 5G technical features. To make Web5G a success, he stressed the importance of a close collaboration among the W3C, 5G standard organizations (e.g. 3GPP), browser vendors, developers, equipment vendors and network Operators.
All presentations can be found at https://www.irt.de/en/news/symposia-and-workshops/review/5g-mediaroad2019/