An ambitious IBC Accelerator project to explore 5G innovation across four major areas of live production was the subject of a recent webinar chaired by IBC’s Innovation Lead, Mark Smith. 

Following the success of the 5G Remote Production Accelerator in 2020, the 5G & Innovation in Live Workflows project draws on the expertise of 24 organizations. While the broadcaster champions include BT Sport, RTE and Fox Sports, the participants feature Net Insight – which is providing its Nimbra Edge platform to show the potential of 5G-supported encoding, transcoding and decoding – alongside the likes of Microsoft, Huawei and Grass Valley. Collectively, they focused in the first year of the project on four areas of potential for live production, namely: multi-access edge computing, multi-cloud deployments, 5G private networks, and low-earth orbit satellites. 

Introducing the webinar, Smith highlighted the “astonishing array of industry players” to be lending their skills and knowledge to this Accelerator. After initial conversations, noted Project Lead and BBC R&D Senior Technology Transfer Manager Ian Wagdin, it became clear that the greatest momentum around 5G innovation existed in two main areas – “one being connectivity and the other around cloud-based services”. 

But as much as the Accelerator was intended to define the potential of 5G in specific areas, it was also “about building an understanding and a common language across us as end-users, and also the vendors,” said Wagdin. “So one of the real benefits was that as soon we joined together we started to have really interesting conversations” – examples being discussions about network connectivity as well as network optimization to improve workflows. 

Matt Stagg, BT Sport’s Director of Mobile Strategy, reminded viewers of the service aspects that could not always be achieved with 4G, including “guaranteed latency and guaranteed bandwidth”. With the arrival of 5G there was a realization that “rather than always being at the behest of other’s people visions”, there could be scope to establish a standalone mobile 5G network for specific events, such as major sports tournaments: “The idea being that you go to the regulator and say we have this location, and you would be given a bit of spectrum” in which to operate. 

Ultimately, added Stagg, there is potential for a highly transportable “5G in a box”-style solution. Indeed, the Accelerator has already resulted in a trial at a sports event in which project participant the University of Strathclyde played a crucial role. “There you see the real value of an Accelerator in that you get to demo this kind of solution,” remarked Stagg. 

Purminder Gandhu, Technology Transfer and Partnerships Manager at BBC, updated the webinar audience on the “really low latency and high-bandwidth” potential of 5G integration with low earth orbit satellites. It’s an application that could have huge money-saving possibilities for the BBC, indicated Gandhu, who said that the chance to “be among the first to show the potential of this technology is really exciting”. 

There was also an update on another key aspect of the project – which continues through 2022 – regarding multi-edge and cloud deployments. Mario Reis, Director of Telecommunications at OBS, noted that the project had already “fostered a lot of discussion between broadcasters and vendors”, and that continued dialogue will be vital if the potential is to be realized of “this very new idea whereby content might be moved between clouds”. Broadcasters will need to “ensure they have a certain level of understanding and know-how in order to drive the cloud adoption, but I think we will see a lot of education around the various use cases.” 

To view the webinar in full, please visit this link.

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