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  • September 1, 2021
  • By Eric Bolten VP Strategic Account Development, Zixi
  • Blog

How 5G Will Impact the Media Supply Chain

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5G is going to have a seismic impact at all levels of the media and entertainment industry. According to a study by Intel, 5G will drive $1.3 trillion in new revenues in M&E by 2028; and as early as 2025, 57% of global wireless media revenues will be the direct result of the increased bandwidth capacity 5G networks provide and the devices that run on them. As the network buildout continues, so will that ratio of revenues pivot more towards the 5G part of the spectrum.

5G users consume up to 2.7x more data per device than 4G users, taking particular advantage of low latency, non-buffering connections to consume greater amounts of video content. This opens up a significant number of differing use cases in the B2B and B2C fields, many of which we are only starting to explore. 

Focusing on the B2B applications, there are three main areas in media and entertainment that we can see being impacted by the 5G rollout. For contribution we will see completely untethered modes of production become established, both for live events and for studio production; for large events, we will see increasing use cases involving audience engagement at concerts and sports venues, and for distribution it will have a significant influence on all stages of the disparate components of the media supply chain. 

The 5G Impact on Distribution 

The 5 Cs of the media supply chain are Content, Cloud, Carrier, Cellular, and Consumer, and 5G will have an accelerating effect on each of these separate components, and in turn a synergistic impact when considered across the length of the chain. 

  • Content: There will be greater amounts of content at higher quality, flowing faster bi-directionally—not just to the consumer, but back to and/or between organizations
  • Cloud: 5G in combination with cloud broadcast infrastructure will enable media companies and service providers to quickly leverage SaaS to ingest and distribute live video over IP. This will be achieved at ultra-low latency with the ability to easily scale to add new partners.
  • Carrier: Global carriers are working hard to enhance value for both existing and potential customers by switching to Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC)—edge computing using cellular networks based around 5G for its primary connectivity. This is far more efficient in delivering a massive increase in the number of connected devices and systems that can be supported as opposed to a traditional cloud architecture.
  • Cellular: Stadiums and arenas such as those in Las Vegas and Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, serve as examples of major markets with successful widespread 5G deployments with the potential to benefit surrounding areas and cities dramatically. 30+ cities in the U.S. have already adopted the technology into their infrastructure, with more starting to expand their deployments. They're realizing benefits that include significantly improved upload and download speeds, connectivity, and quality of experience. 5G cellular infrastructure will grow exponentially as 5G's implications for users are realized and adopted
  • Consumer: 5G will lead to the availability of increasingly complex and useful tools, allowing consumers to take part in video capture, creation and delivery over 5G from their handheld devices. It is important to note that the impact here is less about the increase of bandwidth and more about the decrease in latency, opening the door to a large variety of real-time, immersive video experiences. 

Together, these impacts revolutionize the media supply chain from glass to glass.

Changing the Game

We recently took part in a virtual session at Streaming Media East Connect titled "5G—Game-Changer or Meh?"

Given the tendency of the broadcast and wider tech industries to succumb to waves of hype every few years, the skepticism inherent in that title is understandable. We hear so often about new products and services being revolutionary that the term has lost its meaning, and certainly the hype surrounding 5G peaked early at a point where the networks and the use cases were not in a position to deliver on the promise. 

That situation is changing rapidly, and we can now point to a long list of benefits that 5G brings. It provides the lowest latency possible and increased delivery speed; it allows for more accessible, higher quality content for the end consumer; it confers cost savings thanks to reduced fixed infrastructure requirements; it significantly alters the ability to integrate with the cloud; and it results in a larger, more interconnected and responsive network of devices, truly enabling the Internet of Things. 

Everything becomes faster as latency dips down to genuinely real-time levels, which can lead to challenges for the industry. This includes the required response time of streaming or broadcast functions to end-user actions, putting pressure on systems as consumer expectation ramps up to reflect the always-on, instant nature of the 5G network.

And lastly because viewers consume more content, they will expect access to more content as well. This is going to be a challenge particularly for broadcasters to maintain consumer quality expectations, but it is one that 5G and the cloud together can scale to provide a reliable platform to launch from. 

The companies that realize the game is genuinely changing and changing fast will be at the forefront of this evolution.

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