5G is enhancing the user experience of the new media industry. The user experience enhancement of video services, as a major media format, focuses on three areas: image resolution, viewing angle, and interaction. More specifically, video image resolution has evolved from high-definition (720p or 1080p) to 4K and 8K. The viewing angle of videos has gone beyond two dimensions. Three-dimensional video (supported by virtual reality and volumetric video) is now available, demanding communication networks with higher bandwidth. In addition, the development of interactive services requires communications networks with lower latency.
In this regard, industry players must gain insights into the new 5G media market to seize market opportunities and keep themselves in the game. That said, what value can 5G new media create? And what success stories has the industry seen?
5G+ new media delivers a diverse, excellent experience
The high bandwidth and low latency of 5G overcomes the technical barriers of services like ultra-high-definition (UHD) video and panoramic VR video, boosting industry development. The following are widely considered by the media industry as areas where 5G creates major value.
First, diverse communication media: Over the years, communication media has been restricted to 2D channels, which consumers have been used to. However, the high bandwidth of 5G makes new communication media like UHD video and panoramic VR video possible. This is a new attraction for consumers, and new 5G media applications are becoming basic services.
Second, content with higher quality: In the 5G era, the image resolution of on-demand video, live-streamed video, and industry video services will evolve into 4K and 8K, improving user experience regarding information transmissions and image recognition.
Third, easier media production: Directing programs will become easier, and delivery platforms will be more professional and more diverse. As 5G+AI becomes increasingly adopted, the media will find video production and news editing to be much easier.
Fourth, content is easier to regulate and communicate: With 5G network slicing and edge computing, the media have access to dedicated resources. This way, regulators can more accurately and efficiently regulate content created by the self-media.
Fifth, more media communication scenarios: As the connection of everything becomes possible in the 5G era, communication media will expand into more mobile scenarios, beyond living rooms, shopping malls, and hotels.
Based on the above analysis, 5G will bring many scenario-based applications to the media industry, including UHD video, panoramic VR video, AR telemedicine, AR remote education, UHD video surveillance, and cloud gaming. Three new media formats will be widely adopted.
Media format 1: UHD video. UHD video has higher demands of network transmission capabilities: resolution must reach 4K or even 8K; frame rates must be above 50 fps; and image sampling rates must increase to at least 10 bit/s. 5G is 100 times faster than 4G, with 1/5 of the latency, and 10 times (or up to 20 times) higher connectivity. Therefore, 5G is set to be the best way to transmit 4K/8K video.
Media format 2: VR panoramic video. 5G-enabled panoramic VR video production and broadcasting have become one of the best applications of VR for new media. For example, panoramic VR video for sporting events can be captured with multiple cameras that are moving within or along the venue. Through 5G-enabled panoramic VR video, the audience can gain a 360-degree view of everything a player is doing during a game.
Media format 3: AR interactions. The high-bandwidth of 5G can support remote AR interactions. The combination of 5G and AR can provide consumers with an interactive experience where they can interact with AR-enabled restaurants, guesthouses, scenic spots, etc. This will give them a more intuitive perception of different products and services.
Diverse use cases: Industry ecosystem advances new 5G media applications
World leading carriers have been actively applying new 5G media in various scenarios. For example, South Korean carriers, who were the first to commercialize 5G, have launched 5G-enabled, live VR sports streaming. This application has been well received by South Korean consumers, creating considerable data traffic consumption for the carriers. With China's 5G licenses issued, the growth of China's 5G new media is also being boosted. Several areas, such as tourism and show business are already exploring the huge, new 5G media market. The following are some typical use cases:
Use case 1: Live news broadcasts
In late 2018, China Media Group, China's three major carriers, and Huawei signed a strategic partnership agreement to jointly build a national, new 5G media platform. In 2019, China Media Group has been working with Chinese carriers in Beijing, Shenzhen, Changchun and other cities on UHD live broadcasting through the 5G network.
Current outdoor live TV broadcasts rely on outside broadcasting vans (OB vans), which are very expensive. Every time an OB van is dispatched, it stays in service for at least a day, costing over CNY30,000 per hour. With the high bandwidth of 5G, live broadcasting is possible simply with a backpack and a 4K video camera, which costs much less and is highly portable.
Use case 2: Major event (e.g. concerts and exhibitions) live broadcast
In May 2019, the dance drama The Railway to Tibet, performed at China's National Centre for the Performing Arts, was broadcast live in "4K+5G" through several channels, including the Capital Cinema, phones, and TVs. The audiences experienced a new form of live broadcast which merged art with technological innovation. According to reports, this live broadcast was the world's first "4K+5G" live broadcast in a movie theater. 4K UHD technology was used throughout the process, including during filming, transmission, and presentation.
Use case 3: Live broadcasts from scenic spots
On February 19, 2019, the annual Chengdu Fireworks Show was held at Chengdu's Panda Tower, the tallest tower in Western China, gaining the attention of the entire city. With the 5G network of China Mobile Sichuan, Jiangyan, who was shopping at Taikoo Li with her friend, enjoyed the firework show from a few kilometers away using a VR headset.
So, can we also live broadcast HD videos of lovely animals through 5G? In May 2019, China Telecom Sichuan deployed the 5G network at the Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve. With this 5G network, UHD videos filmed by 4K cameras in the reserve were transmitted to the site of the International Horticultural Exhibition (Expo) in Beijing. The video images were clear, smooth, and stable. Crystal-clear HD videos of pandas eating and playing were shown to the Expo audiences, who were amazed.
Use case 4: Live sporting events
On February 28, 2019, China Unicom Heilongjiang worked with China Media Group on a new 5G media platform and successfully conducted a live 5G+4K HD broadcast at the Yabuli Ski Resort in Heilongjiang. On May 12, 2019, during a match between Shanghai SIPG F.C. and Shandong Luneng Taishan F.C., China Mobile Shanghai, Migu, and the Xuhui District government worked together to deliver the world's first live broadcast of a CSL match in 5G+4K+VR.
On July 14, the Chongqing division final of the 2019 Fengyun Qiuwang Five-a-side Football Championship was played at the National Fitness Center in Yubei District. The latest 5G+VR network and technology jointly provided by China Unicom Chongqing and Huawei dramatically improved experiences and interactivity for the audiences.
Generally, new 5G-enabled media can meet numerous requirements of both companies and consumers. This means the application of such media is promising, and industries are very interested in innovating in this area. This year, the number of 5G base stations in China will exceed 100,000. As the 5G network keeps improving in the years to come, the concerted efforts of media professionals, carriers, and equipment vendors will enable audiences to fully enjoy new 5G media applications, such as 4K/8K and VR/AR live streaming.