EBU says 5G could be silver bullet for public broadcasters

(Image credit: EBU)

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has released what it is calling a “ground-breaking” report into the feasibility of using 5G technology as a distribution method for public service media organizations across Europe.

Best-known outside of the broadcasting industry for producing the annual Eurovision Song Contest, the EBU has been the primary representative for public service media (PSM) organisations since 1950, and boasts 116 member organisations across 56 countries. Members include the likes of the BBC, RTÉ, ITV, S4C, Rai, ARD, and France Télévisions.

The main body of this new report from the EBU – titled '5G for the distribution of audiovisual media content and services' – is focused on whether broadcasters will be able to use 5G technology to deliver both linear, and nonlinear broadcasts, supporting them with enhanced media services (EMS), which are a combination of both. (‘Linear media’ refers to conventional TV or radio channels where programmes such as news, sport, entertainment and documentaries are scheduled by a service provider to be viewed at the time of transmission; whereas ‘nonlinear media’ is a type of media content that is offered on-demand at the request of the user.)

“For the time being, the only way of delivering nonlinear services to portable and mobile devices is by means of unicast connections,” reads the introduction to the report. “However, the large-scale delivery of audio-visual content over mobile unicast networks is at present not satisfactory both from media service providers and user perspectives, due to deficits regarding quality of service (QoS), coverage and costs. 5G as specified by 3GPP may offer an opportunity to bridge this gap.”

Moving beyond ‘5G Broadcast’

“The main conclusions emphasise the fact that, technically, 5G may be able to meet the distribution requirements of both PSM and commercial media providers if a combination of 5G Mobile Broadband and 5G Broadcast is used."

EBU report.

The broadcasting industry was heavily involved in developing the original specification for ‘5G Broadcast’, which is technology that uses a process named FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service) to deliver media via 5G. As a TV or radio broadcaster, this standard gives you the full spectrum of High Power High Tower (HPHT) applications in downlink-only mode, but it is not the same as ‘5G Mobile Broadband’, which refers to developments in 3GPP based on the new radio access (New Radio – NR) and core (5G Core – 5GC) technologies, which are operated and deployed by mobile network operators (MNOs).

“The main conclusions emphasise the fact that, technically, 5G may be able to meet the distribution requirements of both PSM and commercial media providers if a combination of 5G Mobile Broadband and 5G Broadcast is used,” the report stated. “To achieve this in practice, collaboration between stakeholders across the media value chain is required. In addition, further investigations into cooperative models between broadcasters and mobile network operators in term of joint use of spectrum and site assets would be useful. Such cooperation may deliver the cost benefits and the economies of scales required to trigger the device and infrastructure ecosystem for 5G broadcast.”

The report summarized that the most straightforward option for ‘5G Broadcast’ to co-exist with digital terrestrial television (DTT), is for 5G Broadcast to use 5 MHz channels with the same channel centres as the 8 MHz DTT raster. But some changes will be required.

“As this option would use only 5/8 of the available spectrum, it would be spectrally inefficient, and a newly defined 8MHz bandwidth would be more efficient while also being compatible with the GE06 framework in ITU Region 1,” the report concluded. 

To read the full 60-report from the European Broadcasting Union click here.

Dan Oliver

Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.