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Mobile Video and 5G – A 2020 Vision

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(Image: Pixabay)

The Super Bowl winning leader of numerous NFL teams’ quote holds true for video use over 5G networks to date. U.S. operators are busy this year deploying networks that enable super-fast wireless technology that have the potential to change the way business and consumers uses mobile devices.

Many see 2020 as a primetime opportunity for delivery of video over 5G to mobile devices, what with huge far-flung viewing events including the presidential election here in the states and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, for starters.

Envision smartphone owners folding open their devices to create an iPad-sized screen to view any of a myriad of streaming video content sources – and staying engaged longer in the absences of delays in streaming TV shows and movies that are commonplace with sub-5G wireless links today.

Potential Use Cases

Global carrier networking provider Ericsson has defined five key industries that could benefit from 5G usage. They are TV and media; manufacturing; healthcare; telecommunications; and transportation/infrastructure.

The TV and media industry is loaded with those looking for ways to get content to the wireless masses. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, entertainment conglomerate Disney, whose family includes ABC, ESPN, Fox Entertainment, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Pixar, announced a project to explore 5G media opportunities with Verizon.

Disney is testing 5G applications through its new StudioLab facility.

“We see 5G changing everything about how media is produced and consumed,” Disney Studios CTO Jamie Voris was quoted as saying.

Reality Check

At this early stage in 5G wireless evolution, there are plenty of IT executives that are interested skeptics. There’s already a mobile video ecosystem. Adding 5G technology to enable a new one sounds great, but some warn that unless the result is adding value to the mobile video, it’ll be a tough sell. Or worse, it will be a painful lesson learned with 3D TV. Also high on the must-have list is a high-quality viewing experience. Minus those two items, interested skeptics will be sideline sitters, not early implementors.

Think of the cycle as a game of leapfrog. As data delivery improves (it should, with super-fast 5G services), hardware needs to get better. And if 5G is everything it's purported to be, it makes sense for sales of phones with foldable screens start to pick up. This would provide a larger viewing area for rich content.

Business case: When data delivery improves, operators and enterprises will need to construct a business case for 5G uses. Key questions to be answered include how operators will price super-fast 5G services? Will there be tiered and unlimited use plans and what will they cost? What of affordability?

Content: There’s plenty of content from the media and entertainment industries that could be live streamed to mobile 5G devices, with sports matches at the top of the list. On-demand content such as movies and TV shows could also find their way to mobile devices with super-fast 5G wireless connections.

4K Support: 4K is an increasingly popular format for content that offers a rich and more immersive viewing experience than HD content. The former specifies four times more pixels. 4K TVs have been available for years, with prices continuing to fall. The delivery of native 4K content to these and mobile devices requires a recommended 12Mbit/sec to 25Mbit/sec of bandwidth. That’s achievable for many homes with wired links (still leaving many out), but a deterrent to those with mobile devices using current wireless connections.

5G Devices: Bigger is often better here as viewing content on many smartphones is problematic thanks to smallish screens. This limits the average viewing times for mobile video. This could change if we see more and cheaper foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold – with its 7.3-inch screen -due out in April. The units carry a price tag of roughly $2,000, which will hamper sales, according to a recent report by Juniper Research. Competition could drive the price downward. The latest iPad has a 9.7-inch screen.

OTT services: Internet-streamed TV services stand to gain even more ground on traditional wired cable TV offerings, which is great news for current and prospective cord cutters. Why? Subscription TV services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Sling and DirecTV Now all want to expand their mobile video business, which has been limited by available wireless bandwidth.

Mobile gaming. Look for 5G service to forever change gaming by providing super-fast speeds needed that crush latency and delay still experienced in online gaming in the home.  5G should also be a game changer by expanding use to those with mobile devices who, because of speed constraints with current wireless networks, waited to get home to get in the game. Expect gamers to continue to prefer big- screen TV monitors, but also embrace the mobile option when away from home.

The Road Ahead

If the larger-screen mobile devices, using content delivered over 5G networks, provide a high-quality viewing experience for their owners and IT departments, the case for mobile video over these super-fast networks will be close to fulfilling the potential of the underlying cellular technology. That’s doing something.