The Future of Broadcast Technology

Manfred Reitmeier

Published 1st June 2022

The Future of Broadcast Technology

1. What vision do you have of the broadcast technology business beyond 2030?
Now that OTT and VOD have become more mainstream, many commentators talk about traditional broadcast methods, like terrestrial transmission, being a thing of the past. With so many new platforms and non-traditional content services carving out a growing slice of the market, you can be forgiven for thinking that linear over-the-air television is on its way out. The reality is that the industry must strike a balance between meeting consumers’ shifting habits and the business and operational needs of content providers.
For their part, today’s consumers are increasingly accessing content via smart TVs and smart devices, and for them it is about good connectivity, great content, and an excellent user experience. They are far less concerned about the underlying technology.
Content providers are driven by the primary aim of delivering the best experience and creating the best content in the most efficient way possible. The traditional one-to-many broadcast model is undeniably the most efficient one we have, so what we will begin to see is a continuation of this approach, just with a different underlying technology, such as IP or 5G Broadcast/Multicast.

5G Broadcast/Multicast offers a completely new range of business models for delivering content to large numbers of consumers, without impacting the cellular 5G mobile network, allowing many application segments and verticals – such as sports locations and event venues, the automotive sector and public warning systems - to be efficiently implemented via a one-to-many standardised solution.

2. What is the strength of 5G Broadcast/Multicast? What are the opportunities and for which use cases can 5G broadcast play a special role in the 5G ecosystem?

Unlike DTT, which differs across geographic territories, 5G Broadcast/Multicast relies on a single global standard. It is uniquely placed to bridge the gap between broadcast and mobile communication ecosystems while meeting the demand for more content. It is barrier-free, allowing providers to meet all users, on any device and network, within a coverage area.

In the context of public warning systems (PWS), high tower free-to-air/no-SIM offers emergency services and national authorities more secure ways to deliver public messages during natural disasters or emergencies. Public safety information, on severe weather or community incidents, can be transmitted in a multicast fashion, including data with instructions, advice, and additional information for users on how to better react to the alert.
Venucasting is seeing growing demand as venues, sports clubs and other commercial organisations seek to meet a surge in demand for new and innovative content offerings. It underlines that broadcasting is no longer just a 24/7 service, but also comprises one off content offerings to consumers. In the case of sports, it leverages the capability of 5G Broadcast/Multicast to deliver additional multiangle streams, interviews and other interactive content before, during and after a game. For fans attending sports where the action moves over a large area, such as motorsport or cycling, this type of service gives fans compelling content to keep them engaged while they wait for drivers/riders to come past. This type of offering sits alongside content provided by broadcasters and teams on social media or linear television services and can be effectively monetised to generate valuable revenue streams.
Similarly, the 5G Broadcast network can be used to deliver services and data to smart car multimedia systems, to improve the driver experience.

3. What are the main factors that will determine whether 5G broadcast can become a commercial success?
5G is a global standard but comes with a wide feature set that network and content providers can choose from, so it is not a case of one size fits all. The availability of equipment is also a potential challenge, especially consumer devices. Global players – whether device manufacturers, or network technology vendors – must now commit and back the technology to push the transmission standard forward.
This is exactly what we at Rohde & Schwarz are doing. We have incorporated the standard into our network equipment, such as transmitters, and partnered with other industry leaders like Qualcomm to help drive adoption forward. Our recent joint demonstration at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2022 saw the world’s first live end-to-end 5G Broadcast/Multicast live stream to mobile devices. We were able to bring together a solution that could show what is possible using smartphone devices and the delivery of digital TV content over 3GPP standardized technology.

Visitors to the show could see the possibility for the first concrete deployment scenarios and their response was incredibly positive. We have given the industry a clear indication that everything is now in place to make the leap to 5G Broadcast/Multicast.

4. When can one expect the availability of end-to-end technology including mobile devices?
The end-to-end solution shown at MWC22 is based on the latest Snapdragon chipset from Qualcomm and we are very hopeful that at least one of the big smartphone manufacturers will come out with devices during this or next year. For our part, we are working with partners to bring more of the big players on board.

5. What challenges do you see for the BC Network Operators and how could they be addressed?
There are several challenges facing BC Network operators. The first is to try and strike the right balance between new business models and their existing businesses. It is not simply a case of flipping a switch; every new technology needs investment before it can turn a profit. Even though it is a single global standard, there are also varied regulatory issues across different markets that need to be considered when putting together a roadmap for the future. While we do see 5G Broadcast replacing DTT in the long-term – and we are talking very long term, so in the interim, there must be a balance between the two technologies and the influence on the business models.
Frequency is another issue that faces all operators and it will be a major topic of discussion at the ITU World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) 2023. 5G Broadcast/Multicast can be used in frequencies below 700 MHz, owned by broadcasters, as well as frequencies over 700 MHz that have been allocated to mobile network operators. This means both these groups can create and benefit from new business models that rely on 5G Broadcast/Multicast.

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