THE 5G EFFECT
AUGUST 5, 2019
5G (which means it’s the 5th generation of wireless technology) is being rolled out by U.S carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile after initial tests in cities like Sacramento and Houston as this timeline from Red Chalk Group shows. Although this graphic shows the U.S. they predict similar timelines in other developed countries. In the United Kingdom, Vodafone ran trials in seven cities in October 2018 with plans to launch in 2019 as 5G devices become available. If we look at the entire world, Ericsson forecasts in their June 2019 Mobility Report that by 2024, 5G subscriptions will reach 1.9 billion, 35 percent of traffic will be carried by 5G networks and up to 65 percent of the world's population could be covered. So although the rollout has initially seemed slow, it will accelerate.
It’s easy to forget that 4G led to a change from downloading media to streaming on mobile devices. However, consumers were forced to choose between immediacy and quality, usually sacrificing quality for the ability to enjoy content immediately. 5G will lead to an even more radical transformation in the way media is consumed. It has three major benefits over its predecessors – greater speed, lower latency and the ability to connect more devices simultaneously. According to ABI Research, “5G will bring about a 10X improvement in throughput, a 10X decrease in latency, a 100X improvement in traffic capacity and a 100X improvement in network efficiency. These benefits will all impact the delivery of content to the home and to mobile devices.
5G will be a disruptive technology. From better coverage for phone calls and data to seemingly science fiction applications in the fields of driverless cars, the internet of things and robotic surgery, 5G will lead to incredible advancements. At Vodafone’s recent “Future Ready” press event, the main draw was a live holographic call between England Women’s soccer captain Steph Houghton and a young fan. Houghton, although physically in Manchester, appeared alongside a young fan on stage in Newbury as a full-size 3D hologram. They were able to chat and interact with no noticeable latency which is critical for applications like remote robotic surgery.
The greater speed and lower latency will accelerate the development of immersive, multi-player gaming. Lower latency will also enable cloud-based gaming – video games have a much lower tolerance for latency than, for example, video streaming and so cloud-based subscription gaming services will be enabled by 5G. Some of the biggest impacts will be on virtual reality and augmented reality. Adoption has perhaps been slower than expected, but 5G is expected to unlock the full potential of VR and AR by overcoming the limitations of 4G. The Price Waterhouse Cooper Global Media Outlook 2016 – 2020 predicts that 64.9 million VR headsets will be shipped in 2020 and by 2022 VR gaming, app and video content will generate revenues of $21.2 billion. Immersive VR will require high resolution, high frame rates and high dynamic range. As an example, RED and Facebook just revealed a camera, Manifold, that consists of sixteen 8K RED Helium sensors and captures entire scenes at 60 FPS. The sensors are combined with Facebook’s depth estimation technology which captures 3D information from any object in a scene. 5G will enable the use of these cameras. Without it, the data requirements would be overwhelming for both production and distribution.
For the movie and television industry, the benefits of 5G will be just as exciting. On the distribution side, 4K content streaming to mobile devices anywhere will become commonplace. According to the Cisco VNI Network Forecast 2016 – 2021, mobile video will account for 75% of mobile data traffic in 2020. Downloading a movie will take seconds so consumers will be able to choose if they want the flexibility of not having to rely on connectivity or if they’d rather stream to wherever they are. In the home, 5G will be a strong competitor to cable, with a maximum speed of 10 Gbps (gigabits per second) and a much lower latency than 4G (4 milliseconds rather than 20). Verizon, for example, is currently launching its 5G Home service 1, 2018, in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.
On the production side, one huge benefit will be the increased speed of moving content around. Imagine cameras being 5G enabled so that as soon as the director calls cut, wherever in the world the shoot is, the shot and the associated metadata is automatically uploaded securely and available for the editorial department to start reviewing and cutting wherever they are. Imagine being on location in Thailand and being able to upload full resolution HDR dailies in a matter of minutes at the end of the day. Secure, collaborative tools like PIX will be a key component as productions and studios seek to accelerate their workflows and maximize their efficiencies using 5G networks and 5G enabled devices.
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