The Promise of 5G And How It Is Changing IP Video ContributionIt seems impossible to turn on the television, go online or pick up a magazine and not see a commercial or news story about 5G.
The general public is being told to expect faster download speeds, especially when it comes to music and movies.
Typical is an October 2018 story in PC magazine online by Angela Moscaritolo. The article, “5G Will Save You Almost 24 Hours of Download Time Per Month,” does a nice job of illustrating 5G’s speed.
“With 5G, movie download times will decrease from 7 minutes to just 6 seconds,” she writes.
The point of this article and many others is that 5G offers—or perhaps more accurately, will one day offer when fully deployed—the ability to move massive amounts of data to the public for their enjoyment in a fraction of the time needed on today’s wireless networks.
These sorts of articles also often point out that latency will drop when compared to today’s networks.
While this is all well and good, the concept of pushing more data through the network in a given amount of time and lower latency aren’t the only attractive qualities of 5G, especially to TV broadcasters, producers of live events like sports and entertainment, corporate and government videos and other productions.
For this cohort of potential 5G users, the most interesting things about this latest generation of wireless service is what it can do for them on the upload side of the equation.
5G Upload and Download Speed
“There’s a minimum peak download rate and a minimum peak upload rate for a network to be called a 5G network,” the article says.
That minimum download rate is 20Gb/s; upload is 10Gb/s. Minimum latency is 4ms.
However, these figures are the ideal. Real-world performance will vary quite a bit due to factors ranging from location, hardware being used and how many others are sharing the available network.
Perhaps FierceWireless.com’s January report on tests conducted by OpenSignal, a U.K. research organization, of 5G performance in the U.S. is more representative of actual performance.
The tests found download speeds of 47.4, 58.1 and 53.8Mb/s, among Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T, respectively.
On the upload side of the equation, the tests revealed 11.9, 14 and 8Mbps among the same companies, respectively.
Naturally, the question that must be asked is how do the ideal and today’s real-world 5G performance compare to 4G LTE network speed. You might be surprised.
In February, Liane Cassavoy at Lifewire.com penned an article reporting on 4G LTE download and upload speeds.
The article, “How Fast Is 4G LTE Wireless Service?,” reports 36, 24 and 26Mbps download speeds from Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T, respectively. It notes in big cities, “much higher speeds” are available from Verizon. For uploads, Cassavoy reports 15, 17 and 12Mbps, respectively.
That means at least for the moment, the all-important upload network speeds of 4G LTE vs. 5G are: 15 vs. 11.9Mbps for Verizon; 17 vs. 14Mbps for T-Mobile; and 12 vs. 8Mbps for AT&T.
For anyone involved with live video production who relies on wireless networks to move video and audio bits as IP packets for integration into a live production, the obvious question has to be why is the latest generation slower? Second –and closely related—is why switch?
Evolution and Preparation
Verizon only began its 5G deployment in April 2019 with rollouts in Chicago and Minneapolis. As of the end of 2020, the company said it covered 230 million people in the U.S. with its 5G Nationwide service. However, its high frequency 5G Ultra Wideband service where speeds are blazingly fast is only available in parts of select cities, according to CoverageCritic.com
AT&T says it covers 230 million Americans in 14,000 cities and towns with 5G service; its 5G+ services (in a much higher swath of frequency with super-fast speeds) is only available in parts of 38 U.S. cities.
T-Mobile, which recently acquired Sprint, delivers 5G service in more than 7,500 cities in the U.S., serving about 250 million people, according to HighSpeedInternet.com. Like the others, T-Mobile offers millimeter-wave 5G coverage with super-fast speeds in “isolated urban centers,” the website reports.
These carriers are successfully rolling out 5G, but where the blazing speeds are possible –high up in band, for instance, at 28GHz and 39GHz in the case of Verizon—is highly restricted, deployed selectively for various reasons, including expense and necessary supporting infrastructure.
IP Video Contribution
Innovators like TVU Networks have seen these developments and responded accordingly. The TVU One 5G transmitter relies on the company’s same exclusive IS+ protocol to ensure data throughput is intelligently maximized by making the best use of its six integrated wireless modems and other bandwidth sources.
As would be expected, TVU One 5G is equipped with 5G-enabled wireless modems that also work on 4G LTE networks when the latest generation service is not available.
TVU One 5G also leverages HEVC, or high efficiency video coding, to ensure the highest quality HD and 4K video is transmitted with the greatest efficiency.
There are a couple of important takeaways that should be considered when deciding if now is the time to jump onboard the 5G bandwagon by video producers who contribute live content via wireless networks.
First, the places where AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile most likely have deployed their respective super-fast 5G service (high on the band) are precisely the places many producers will need that much bandwidth—in city centers, sports stadiums and arenas and other places where large crowds gather.
Second, 5G networks can be sliced, or segmented, into separate pieces and assigned for use by interested parties, such as video producers, for a price. That’s important for producers trying to contribute live video from crowded places like sports stadiums and convention halls.
Instead of having to rely on ad hoc hotspots set up to contribute video from these sorts of locations where thousands of people are competing for a bit of cell network bandwidth, those contributing via 5G who have made proper arrangements should be safe, regardless of the number of those attending with mobile phones in hand.
What this means for video producers is faster, reliable connections, fewer conflicts and the ability to contribute video that increasingly grows in resolution, frame rate, quality and file size.
(Note: The Lifewire article on 4G LTE performance also reported on download speeds for those who are interested.)