5G is not really about speeds, it is about the new applications which could have not worked on 4G or lower networks – has been echoed by many leading developers now furiously engaged in 5G only apps. 5G is not a modified version of 4G; instead, it is an entirely new network infrastructure opening up capabilities which have so far been unexplored and unfathomed. These range from face recognition on the move, immersive video, multicast video distribution, AI, blockchain, and scientific applications which need 10-20x the current speeds with low latency to be viable. As 5G-only mobile networks of the likes of those in USA gain traction, they provide an insight into an entirely new dimensional plane which will form a platform for how the future will unfold, very soon.
OTT in the sky – Satellite multicast ABR (mABR)
Video has been the dominating application on the current networks, consuming upto 70 percent of the traffic on fixed line and mobile networks, followed by social media applications. Video on mobile networks has always been very resource intensive as each stream is a unicast stream, multiplying the bandwidth requirements as the users increase, bringing the network very fast to the usage limits.
Multicast video with ABR, i.e., multiple bandwidth streams delivered to the edge nodes (including those of 5G networks) via satellite multicast make it possible for linear channels, such as those derived from popular OTT series, to be multicast to mobile devices or even STBs where a mini-gateway converts these to a unicast compatible formats, such as HLS or DASH. There has been a lot of traction on this since 2019 with a number of companies jumping into the fray including Broadpeak, Synamedia, and Akamai. The DVB-I standard announced recently is likely to make mABR an integral part of its standard. IP satellites are now being planned with Multicast ABR as a prime application and operators with 5G are buying mABR enabled OTT headends. This is going to drive new 5G apps with capabilities which cannot be envisaged with 4G.
4K and HDR streaming to smartphones – Netflix HDR
The 5G NR 3GPP spec enables 4K on mobile platforms. On February 24, 2021 T-Mobile USA (106 million customers with mid-band 5G in 2021) set the bar high for 5G only platforms by launching its new offering, Magenta MAX with unlimited 4K UHD streaming. Qualcomm had previously demonstrated a 5G-only mobile app with multicamera feeds each running at 50 Mbps in Feb 2020, as an indicator of the things to come. On January 29, 2021 Netflix expanded the list of devices for its HDR video plans (25 Mbps for high streaming quality) which include prominent names such as Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and TCL 20 5G. Developments such as these will spur the development and consumption of more HDR content. Movie theaters are also looking at streaming video feeds as projection options, which allows them to go beyond Hollywood productions.
Video contribution and immersive video – Will Tokyo Olympics be a testbed
The arena for video applications changes completely with the usage of 5G only networks, which offer high native speeds such as available today in USA in C-Band (n77) for applications such as video contribution, sports, and multiple party online live events streaming direct to news channels. However, events such as the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics 2021 will prove to be an innovation testbed featuring brand new sports applications such as immersive video with 5G networks supporting ultra-low latency with high speeds.
5G for video – A pie in the sky
There have been concerns whether 5G will prove to be a pie in the sky for video applications due to its high cost, but these have now been set to rest. On January 5, 2021, Qualcomm launched the first 4-series mobile platform equipped with 5G – for affordable devices – the Snapdragon 480 5G mobile platform with unparalleled streaming experiences built in at chip level.
Video world set for disruptive changes
The traditional video world of production, contribution, distribution, display, attribution (such as immersive video), and monetization is set to be disrupted as never before. The changes which 5G networks bring are, for the first time, not incremental but disruptive. They set to change the revenue and monetization models, departing from linear to a new digital world increasingly enabled by 5G.