Better get ready for 5G

5G is coming
Fabio Murra, V-Nova
May 5th 2017 at 12:11PM : By

5G is on the horizon and it will have a massive effect on video delivery. Fabio Murra, SVP of marketing at V-Nova, takes a look at the next five years in mobile video

In January this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the UK Government would be investing up to 4.7 billion pounds into its new ‘Modern Industrial Strategy’, pledging to develop new technologies across the country and make it easier for companies to do business in the UK. Central to the strategy will be spending and development of digital industries such as broadband and 5G.

The arrival of 5G has the potential to change the delivery of high-definition media as we know it. It will dramatically increase the capacity of current networks and improve response times to provide enough capacity for the billions of devices that will be connected via the Internet of Things (IoT), paving the way for a slew of innovative new technologies and services.

For operators and viewers alike, 5G will open the door to vastly improved content experiences and further enhance the flexible viewing experience that today’s consumers crave. 4G frustrations With mobile broadband expected to account for 90% of all mobile subscriptions by 2022, broadcasting is increasingly dependent on mobile, and therefore the performance of mobile networks. For operators across the broadcast industry, the UK government’s commitment to investment in this area is very welcome. With one of the primary intentions of 5G being to reduce latency, 5G networks will have built-in processing, store data closer to where it’s needed and use multiple forms of radio waves to send and receive traffic – making that frustrating buffering timer and drop in video quality mid-programme a thing of the past. All of this must be controlled by advanced software that can dynamically adapt what gets sent where and when, according to changing needs.

Though the buzz around 5G is mounting, the current level of 4G coverage in the UK still leaves much to be desired. Before 5G arrives, there is a need for considerable infrastructure improvement. According to a new report issued by the National Infrastructure Commission, the UK is ranked 54th in the world for 4G, with the typical user only able to access it 53% of the time.

This particular hurdle has meant that telco and video streaming service providers have struggled to offer high quality, reliable and effectively monetised video streaming services. The hope of many of these industry players is that the rollout of 5G will enable them to start offering high quality mobile video streaming, though this will be costly and a time consuming process.

Can operators afford to wait?

There is no doubt that 5G will provide a more effective way to deliver high quality content, perhaps even 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) video, to devices connected over a mobile network. Once established, operators anticipate being able to roll out services that leverage mobility more effectively and provide reliable premium services, which explains why there is so much activity around this part of the ecosystem.

Once deployed, the capacity of 5G will also be quickly filled by the insatiable consumer demand for more and better quality connected services. Vitally, the eventual ‘bandwidth per capita’ in this new state of connectivity won’t increase that much, if at all, which will keep video compression a necessary component of video delivery.

Cisco, Ericsson and Huawei research all agree that video-over-mobile traffic is forecast to represent 70-80% of all traffic by 2021. In this scenario, operators need to equip themselves with the most effective technology across the whole delivery chain to allow them to deliver the best content experiences. With sufficient bandwidth and improved video compression, a lot of today’s obstacles can already be solved.

A prime example of this was our recent work with Indian OTT service provider fastfilmz, where we proved that delivering high quality mobile video is possible, even in predominantly 2G and 3G markets such as Southern India, where data drops are commonplace. Our previous trial with EE also highlighted that efficient compression solutions can deliver 4K content at a mere 6Mbps, and HD video down to 300 kbps to mobile devices across the UK, both in congested city centres such as Central London and rural parts of the country, like the New Forest.

Outside Europe and the US, the most likely markets to deploy 5G in the coming years are China, Japan and South Korea

By providing a novel approach to video encoding, software solutions like V-Nova PERSEUS shift the bitrate-quality curve to enable UHD quality at HD bitrates, HD at SD and SD at sub-audio rates, dramatically closing the gap between capacity needs and legacy compression technologies. This allows data and video to be transported, stored and secured faster and more cost-effectively, on current networks and delivery infrastructure. Operators waiting for 5G to be rolled out can already use these solutions to deliver best in class video experiences, reducing upfront investment costs and quickening time to market, whilst extending the reach of their services.

The international challenge

Even in Europe, where mobile networks are among the most advanced in the world, data drops still occur and 4G networks can’t offer the adequate quality of service for video – especially during peak time. Outside Europe and the US, the most likely markets to deploy 5G in the coming years are China, Japan and South Korea, where significant investment and government policies are already beginning to be rolled out.

While the race is on in developed countries, the challenge is even more crucial in mobile-first emerging markets where mobile penetration is very high and fixed broadband is scarce. 5G is unlikely to become commonplace in most parts of the world, including Africa, LATAM and MENA, and as such, finding solutions to enable a mobile-optimised content delivery strategy is vital for success in these content-hungry markets.

Though 5G technologies are not fully standardised, there are around 30 operators that have publicly announced that they will introduce 5G plans, with several trials already taking place across the globe.

By the end of 2022, 5G subscriptions are forecast to reach 550million globally, covering 10% of the population, starting in metropolitan and urban areas. However, it is unclear how long it will take for this to reach greater percentages of the global population. This in turn, begs the question: can operators really wait that long to have mobile video everywhere?

2020 is the widely talked about date for commercial availability of 5G and though that target looks achievable, it will not be the start of mass rollout. Like 4G and other generations before it, 5G will be rolled out in stages and will complement existing technologies.

For operators, the message is clear: 5G will bring about substantial benefits, but its implementation will take time, and people are already demanding mobile video now. It is important to position your services properly now, in order to capture the market effectively and when 5G arrives, continue to improve further.