Mobile operators and broadcasters are missing out if they don’t take advantage of the broadcast capabilities in expanding 5G networks, according to Rohde & Schwarz. The mobile network infrastructure vendor believes a multicast approach to transmitting live and on-demand video will not only deliver the higher quality that consumers expect but can save operators money at the same time as being nigh on essential to deliver new interactive and personalized video services.
So, is broadcast multicast the future of content delivery?
Rohde & Schwarz outlines its argument in a new eBook, “5G Broadcast/Multicast,” starting with definitions.
Unicast allows traffic to move across networks from a single transmitting point to another single receiving point. This one-to-one bidirectional communication is the foundation of all cellular networks, from GSM right up to current LTE/4G and 5G technologies, and it’s also easiest and most efficient way to ensure traffic reaches its destination.
Multicast is a “one source to many destinations” approach to traffic distribution. In other words, it only involves the destinations that openly choose to accept the data from a specific source and receive the traffic stream.
Rohde & Schwarz urges network operators to take advantage of the Further Enhanced Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (FeMBMS) specifications (in the 5G 3GPP releases 14-16) to address multiple technical and business challenges coming down the track.
It declares: “5G multicast allows operators to offload their premium content on the move, whether it is live/linear video/audio or even file-based content, while reaching broader audiences and consistently delivering broadcast quality experiences according to individual tastes.”
5G broadcast is not restricted to mobile TV. It can deliver media and entertainment to smartphones and also reach smart vehicles with OTA updates, media and entertainment inside the car, and map updates.
The sheer weight of all this traffic expected means that operators run the risk of network overload — causing buffering and lower quality video experiences — if they continue to transmit using unicast, Rohde & Schwarz argue.
“By combining unicast and multicast modes, 5G paves the way for the future of media delivery, significantly reducing congestion, latency and capex/opex burdens. The same infrastructure that delivers content to TVs and smartphones can concurrently deliver to smart devices and even vehicles, allowing drivers and passengers to not only receive entertainment but also essential weather and map updates.”
In the rush to 5G rush, R&S suggest that many mobile operators have failed to include LTE multicast in their growing networks and will soon struggle when millions of autonomous vehicles and internet of things (IoT) devices require frequent software upgrades or emergency alerts.
“Without eMBMS, telecom operators will end up exhausting their 5G networks because they are not ready to exploit the power of multicasting. Their revenue streams will radically decrease once half of their connected users are vehicles or machines.”
R&S is proposing a completely new business model to network operators and content providers, “revolutionizing,” in its words, the way premium content is distributed over the air.
“Instead of acquiring new infrastructure and bidding hundreds of millions of dollars for 10 MHz or 20 MHz of bandwidth, MNOs can use what is already there.” In other words, broadcasting sites that are already built, network infrastructure that is installed and UHF frequencies that are well established for broadcast/multicast mode can be used as a service.
The answer is straightforward, says the vendor: Employ a multicast as a service (MaaS) approach and offload any type of media you would like in dynamic and intelligent ways.
For video-on-demand, for example, Rohde&Schwarz propose that content can be preloaded on smart devices when they are in idle mode or when they are not used overnight.
“The usual buffering, latency and pixilation that occurs when viewers are on the go could be consigned to history if content is efficiently delivered to all interested devices in parallel,” it states, “allowing viewers to pick up their phone in the morning to find their videos ready to watch in high quality.”
Its calculations suggest that at least 35% of current VoD traffic in mobile networks can be offloaded in this way allowing 5G cells to easily handle the remaining traffic.
Live and Linear Solution
When it comes to live event video delivered over mobile at broadcast quality, R&S says the unicast method is outmoded and too costly.
Based on a “very conservative” estimate, R&S suggest that live and linear content currently constitutes 13% of overall video consumption (~9% of overall mobile network traffic). But by 2025, mobile video consumption is expected to reach 80% of overall 5G mobile data traffic. Live and linear content in turn is expected to reach an average of at least 25% of overall video consumption five years from now.
In other words, 20% of overall mobile network traffic.
In addition, based on what R&S calls a conservative estimate, mobile operators are expected to invest at least 50% on top of the $350 million a year they are already investing (to deploy and/or upgrade radio access network sites) in order to meet the mandatory 5G specifications and try to cover the new type of mobile traffic. This means a worldwide average CAPEX of $500 million per year will be required from an MNO to try to cover their needs.
“By using a ‘5G unicast+multicast’ approach operators can offload at least 20% of their mobile traffic load in broadcast/multicast mode while delivering unicast bidirectional traffic as usual,” R&S states. “MNOs will not require any additional frequency-related investments and OPEX, as they use existing infrastructure as a service, including operational costs.
“This alternative is opening the door for content providers/owners to deliver higher quality of service to broader audiences using millions of devices with less cost — and even in many cases without any need for a CDN.”
One revenue generating application multicast opens up is that of the audience watching events live in the stadia. Features enabled at the venue by 5G multicast, it outlines, include the ability to zoom in and select multi-angles, repeat/slow motion features, synchronized commentator options and customized 1st person/3rd person views where fans can see and feel the movement of the player.
R&S proposes that “fans can become part of in-field communications by listening to the discussion between referees, players and coaches with an original XR views.”
Based on a survey at two major arenas in Germany (Allianz Arena in Munich and Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund), the fan experience generates up to 12% additional ticket revenue per game — not taking into account the additional revenue through personalized ads on smartphones, tablets and smart glasses.
Currently, however, less than half of network operators are able to convert the next-generation increase in data consumption into revenue.
The vendor closes its case: “By offering multicast as a service, Rohde & Schwarz opens up all these opportunities at the same time; a business model specially designed to optimize the delivery of one-to-many content and solve the challenges operators face in this exciting new landscape.