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360-degree video – An exciting application of 5G

The expectations from live broadcasting have never been higher. Modern consumers crave a viewing experience that replicates the live experience on-screen with as much detail as possible. With developments in live-streaming technology and the imminent rollout of 5G, and ultimately faster broadband technology, we are now entering an era of live TV that is on par with the feeling of being there, no matter where in the world you are watching. As a result, 360-degree video has become an increasingly popular format for enjoying live events.

Yet, in today’s mobile-first world, consumers expect all video formats to be streamed at broadcast levels of quality. And this is a big challenge for all broadcasters, service providers, and operators across the globe. In Asia-Pacific, the mobile market far surpasses that of fixed broadband subscribers, with India alone accounting for over 1.17 billion mobile subscribers (TRAI report). This number is yet increasing, with an additional 500 million smartphones expected in India by 2025 according to Ericsson’s November 2019 Mobility report. Low prices for mobile broadband services and affordable smartphones are driving monthly network usage in the region, and the demand for immersive video is driving the amount of data each smartphone is using.

Mobile-traffic growth is expected to skyrocket into the next decade, driven by the increased levels of video streaming. According to Ericsson, video traffic will grow at a CAGR of 30 percent through 2025 to account for three-quarters of mobile data traffic. While the most common video resolution for video streaming over cellular networks today is around 480p, 5G networks will provide the bandwidth needed to realize the increased demand for dynamic streamed content. To illustrate this point, live streaming an esports event in multi-view cloud could consume 7 GB per hour, while a high-quality AR/VR stream with a media bitrate of 25 Mbps would consume as much as 12 GB per hour. As the growth and penetration of mobile broadband continues to drive media consumption across the APAC region, the rollout of 5G will open up the choice consumers face as to how they want to consume content.

The beauty of 5G technology is that it works across the entire media spectrum. The combination of 5G and media will be crucial in creating and delivering new pathways for immersive experiences, such as 360-degree video, and offers exciting potential for revolutionizing the fan experience. In stadium and arena environments, 5G will help connect thousands of people to multiple access points, and provide the potential to deliver alternative views of what they are watching across multiple devices. In addition to delivering higher speeds and increased connectivity, 5G will play a key role in reducing latency. Through the development of new standards, it is now already possible to reduce latency within live video to a matter of seconds by using multicast ABR within the CDN to the edge and leveraging edge-processing within the network.

As a potential 5G use case, 360-degree video offers a compelling proposition. The technology can offer fans a view of their favorite live event, unparalleled to even the best seats in the stadium. It also opens up huge monetization potential for broadcasters and content owners, providing new areas for fan engagement, as opportunities for in-game advertising or sponsorship revenues.

Through the ongoing evolution of mobility and 5G technology, content providers, service providers, and operators can offer consumers long-sought broadcast-quality streaming experiences that can match, or even exceed, traditional TV offerings. Given 5G subscriptions are expected to be available in India in 2022 – and will represent 11 percent of all mobile subscriptions by the end of 2025 – the ability to deliver live content from anywhere to everywhere will be a fundamental driver in media-delivery innovation.

As 360-degree video technology becomes an increasing reality, broadcasters and service providers have a wonderful opportunity to deliver a truly unique and compelling user experience to the Asia-Pacific region. By bringing together the triumvirate of high bandwidth, low latency, and connectivity, 5G will unlock the potential of these increasingly dynamic formats and irrevocably change consumer expectations of what the live streaming experience should look like.

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