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5G will revolutionize broadcasting

5G broadcasting is set to revolutionize how content is consumed and distributed over the next five years, as 5G networks become more accessible, and the ways in which content is captured, produced, and distributed, are all transformed by the low latency and high speeds of 5G technology.

5G broadcasting will change how events and programs are captured, produced and transmitted to viewers. Broadcasts will become more interactive, more innovative, and more efficient.

The wireless industry has gone down this path before with technologies such as MediaFLO, LTE Broadcast and DVB-H. None of these technologies had widespread success. Qualcomm shuttered its MediaFLO unit in 2006. Dutch operator KPN, which offered a DVB-H service, cancelled it in 2011 due to lack of handset support. And Verizon, which was one of the few proponents of LTE Broadcast, ended its go90 streaming video service in 2018.

However, 5G Broadcast, which is part of the 3GPP Release 16 standard, has some key differences. For one, it isn’t relying upon wireless operators to be the sole providers of the technology. Instead, other providers, such as media companies or broadcasters, are able to operate their own networks independently of the wireless operator using existing broadcast towers and broadcast spectrum in the UHF band, which broadcasters typically own or have access to. End users would be able to view that content via smartphones or other devices, such as a television or tablet.

One of the challenges around 5G is that it is, at the moment, constantly evolving. Unlike older mobile standards, 5G has been through multiple iterations already, creating a gap between the hardware available and the latest theoretical version of the standard. This means that some elements of 5G are available for use today (such as higher bandwidth), others are yet to be included in chipsets, and still others are agreed, but not fully ratified by the 3GPP standards body.

The practical result is something of a patchwork quilt of capabilities, further complicated by varying geographical rollout (some operators have invested more in certain areas than others), and even further complicated by private-sector implementations.

The latter ‘private networks’ allow organizations to harness the benefits of 5G by essentially building their own networks in a limited area, for example, across a studio complex or sports stadium. The benefits for these early adopters are potentially substantial, enabling the latest hardware and highest network speeds to be reached, without needing to wait for wider public rollout.

The support for 5G broadcast across the broader ecosystem has grown significantly the last couple of years. This can be exemplified by the more than 25 3GPP members who co-signed the Release 16 Work Item; and the establishment of 5G Multimedia Action Group (5G MAG) in 2019. 5G MAG is a cross-industry organization that has more than 40 active members  (including Verizon and BT) promoting the commercial adoption of 5G broadcast. 5G MAG has carried out multiple trials between 2019-2022 to better understand the potential of using 5G for broadcast, production, and distribution of media content and services.

These trials have set the stage for the 5G broadcast and virtually seamless rich media content to be delivered to 5G devices. As 5G and its broadcast technology advances, the needs of the broadcasters, content providers, operators, and the likes continue to evolve just the same. Not only will 5G broadcast technology be able to address those needs, 5G broadcast is also a flexible platform that will continue to expand into supporting new applications and delivering new experiences.

In India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has issued new advisory to avoid interference between 5G and broadcasting services. To avoid any scenarios of interference, the MIB has suggested all the operators in India use high-quality bandpass filters and LNBs with narrowband filters. Using these devices will ensure that there is no interference between 5G and broadcasting services.

TRAI had recommended that the 526-612 MHz frequency range not be put in the auction, while stating the following reasons:

  1. Band plan(s) for the frequency range 526-612 MHz is yet to be defined by 3GPP/ITU.
  2. Development of ecosystem for IMT in the 526-612 MHz frequency range will take some time.
  3. MIB is using the 526-582 MHz band extensively across the country for TV transmitters.

“To make 526-582 MHz band available for IMT, DoT should work with MIB to prepare a plan for an early migration from analogue to digital transmission, so that the frequency band from 526-582 MHz can be vacated for IMT services,” it said. The telecom regulator urged DoT to come out with a plan for reframing the 526-582 MHz band to be utilised for IMT deployments.

These were not auctioned in the recent auction concluded on August 2, 2022.

“As the IMT emissions in the 3300-3670 MHz may saturate the low noise block (LNB) of the fixed-satellite service (FSS) earth station which traditionally operates in the 3400-4200 MHz, there is a need to make use of high-quality bandpass filters operating in 3700-4200 MHz range,” TRAI had added.

Broadcasters claimed to have faced interference on downlink frequencies during the initial 5G trials, following which they raised the issue with the MIB, DoT, and WPC (Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing of DoT), and the Trai. There were apprehensions around potential interference due to the larger C band allocation to 5G and the limited guard band of 30 MHz between the two services.

The private players had requested for an adequate guard band of 100MHz between the 3300-3670 MHz allocated to 5G and 3700-4200 MHz being used by them in accordance with the international telecommunication union (ITU) norms.

TRAI overlooked their request and had instead recommended DoT to ask MIB to take appropriate action and sensitise the MSOs, DTH operators, and other users to ensure the use of high-quality bandpass filters operating in 3700-4200 MHz range to avoid interference from IMT stations.

The television broadcasting and distribution industries in India are facing major disruption under the new tariff regime. Even though they welcome the launch of 5G, which holds great opportunity for the M&E sector in the era of convergence, the smaller players have argued for government intervention in the form of subsidies so that they may move to a higher or alternative frequency.

Apurva Chandra
Secretary,
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting

“Convergence is happening. In telecom and broadcasting, everything is getting converged. Everything is available on an app and now with 5G coming in, we will see a faster convergence with the availability of linear platforms on mobile, and digital radio on mobile. We will require up-gradation of infrastructure in the broadcasting sector also to match 5G availability. Also, the march of technology will keep going on and TRAI will have to maintain its regulations in line with technology.”

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