opinion


5G is here – what this means for content creation and streaming

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Eric Bolten, VP Business Development at Zixi, looks at the impact the 5G era is having on the digital content sector.

After several years of false starts owing largely to the global impact of the pandemic, 2022 is set to be the year where the 5G ecosystem really starts to take off. The consumer side is now essentially a given — Apple’s new 2022 iPhone SE, for instance, is among the 2022 units offering 5G connectivity in the sub $500 bracket — and, as the year rolls on, we will start to see a significant increase in contribution and remote live production use cases. 5G enabled media workflows will not be confined to outlier events either, but will reach across the entertainment landscape.

From content to consumer

5G is set to have an accelerating effect on every area of the media supply chain, from the generation of content all the way through to the delivery to the consumer where the increase in bandwidth at the point of consumption can enable new immersive video experiences.

The cumulative impact is going to be immense, as each component of the media supply chain is accelerated.

There will be greater amounts of content at a higher quality, flowing faster bi-directionally –  not just to the consumer, but back to and/or between organizations as well. There is an enormous democratization of high-quality content creation underway. Tools and techniques that were once the domain of high-end industry specific equipment have been first usurped by IP-based technologies and then the cloud, effectively putting them into the hands of everyone. Porting all this to 5G removes the last technical barrier, and with increasing adoption of cloud ‘as-a-Service’ business models, more people have access to broadcast grade technology than ever before.

5G is an enabler for cloud adoption, and cloud broadcast infrastructure allows media companies and service providers to quickly leverage SaaS solutions to ingest and distribute live video over IP. This delivers premium quality with ultra-low latency and the flexibility and scale to add new models for engaging audiences.

As part of the whole process of rolling out 5G, global carriers are looking to enhance value for their customers by switching to Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC). It uses cellular networks based around 5G for its primary connectivity, which is far more efficient in delivering a massive increase in the number of connected devices and systems that can be supported as opposed to via a traditional cloud architecture. MEC helps lower latency and increase throughput, and, as such, provides further acceleration to broadcasters’ plans.

This will be boosted by the ramping up of the cellular rollout. For specific use cases in the sports and events arena, leading venues have already overseen their own successful 5G deployments and the number of urban deployments is rising all the time. The confident expectation is that the 5G cellular infrastructure will start to grow exponentially as 5G’s implications for users are realized and adopted.

It’s important to remember that the drivers for that growth are legion, from our own broadcast industry use cases to Industry 4.0, infrastructure deployments and the full realization of the promise of the Internet of Things. For the last link in the media supply chain, the consumer, 5G will have profound consequences. Media will become ubiquitous, environments will become more immersive and bandwidth will scale to previously unimagined speeds while at the same time latency will fall through the floor.

To be honest, as an industry we have yet to scratch the surface of how all this will change technology, application, and how consumers interact with media but the smart money is on disruptive wearable devices emerging that basically immerse the consumer in an always-on 5G ecosystem and provide new classes of functionality.

Making it all work

Under the hood, one area that is likely to see rapid innovation is monetization. Nothing about 5G is coming cheap and organizations will look to monetize their offerings and add value at multiple intersections all along the supply chain to achieve ROI. These don’t have to be large transactions, because of the speed with which the networks will work a myriad of small-scale interactions can be put in place. For example teams could sell an AR selfie taken with a driver in the cockpit of a F1 car, or clubs offer in stadia real-time bets on whether a penalty will be scored to the fans in the crowd. Gamification is going to be one of the key concepts here, as media companies look to make video relevant to a generation brought up on instant interactions and gratification via mobile devices.

It’s worth pointing out that the amount of data this will all generate is orders of magnitude above what we have seen before. As a result we will see some serious investment made in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) deployments that will examine the volume of data and extrapolate patterns from it. The net result, intriguingly, might be to offer consumers experiences that they didn’t even know they wanted or that the industry had never even considered. Data analysis has become increasingly vital to all businesses in recent years, and as developments in AI and ML also accelerate during 2022, it is going to become absolutely mission critical.

The legal framework that supports all this is going to be interesting to monitor. Privacy legislation such as Europe’s GDPR is spreading worldwide, and how the data exchanges that will form the mesh in which 5G-enabled devices sit are both policed and regulated is going to be one of the main challenges of establishing 5G ecosystems.

Add it all together and you have a fascinating mix. The opportunities of 5G are immense, but some of the use cases that will serve as its killer apps are still unknown, and there are definite challenges to its rollout both in terms of investment and in terms of regulation. In many respects, it is similar to the very early days of the internet when everything was very much in play for from a technical and a business point of view. But unlike that era, which took several years to reach what you could term a mass-market proposition, the 5G one will deploy in the full glare of worldwide expectation from day one. It’s going to be a fascinating few years.

 

Eric is a leading expert in the digital video space, advising the world’s largest, most complex, and most demanding customers, from media and sports entities to Fortune 1000 corporations. His career spans executive, sales, marketing and business development roles in markets around the globe-including Australia, Asia, South America Europe and the United States.  Prior to Zixi, Eric worked for Com Tech, PictureTel, Vela Research, Venaca and Signiant.

 

 

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