Video: Preparing for 5G Video Streaming

Will streaming really be any better with 5G? What problems won’t 5G solve? Just a couple of the questions in this panel from the Streaming Video Alliance. There are so many aspects of 5G which are improvements, it can be very hard to clearly articulate for a given use case which are the main ones that matter. In this webinar, the use case is clear: streaming to the consumer.

Moderating the session, Dom Robinson kicks off the conversation asking the panellists to dig below the hype and talk about what 5G means for streaming right now. Brian Stevenson is first up explaining that the low-bandwidth 5G option really useful as it allows operators to roll out 5G offerings with the spectrum they already have and, given its low frequency, get a good decent a propagation distance. In the low frequencies, 5G can still give a 20% improvement bandwidth. Whilst this is a good start, he continues, it’s really delivering in the mid-band – where bandwidth is 6x – that we can really start enabling the applications which are discussed in the rest of the talk.

Humberto la Roche from Cisco says that in his opinion, the focus needs to be on low-latency. Latency at the network level is reduced when working in the millimetre wavelengths, reducing around 10x. This is important even for video on demand. He points out, though that delay happens within the IP network fabric as well as in the 5G protocol itself and the wavelength it’s working on. Adding buffers into the network drives down the cost of that infrastructure so it’s important to look at ways of delivering the overall latency needed at a reasonable cost. We also hear from Sanjay Mishra who explains that some telcos are already deploying millimetre wavelengths and focussing on advancing edge compute in high-density areas as their differentiator.

The panel discusses the current technical challenges for operators. Thierry Fautier draws from his experience of watching sports in the US on his mobile devices. The US has a zero-rating policy, he explains, where a mobile operator waives all data charges when you use a certain service, but only delivers the video at SD resolution at 1.5 Mbps. Whilst the benefits to this are obvious, it means that as people buy new, often larger phones, with better screens, they expect to reap the benefits. At SD, Thierry says, you can’t see the ball in Tennis, so there 5G will offer the over-the-air network bandwidth needed to allow the telcos to offer HD as part of these deals.

Preparing for 5G Video Streaming from Streaming Video Alliance on Vimeo.

The panel discusses the problems seen so far in delivering MBMS – multicast for mobile networks. MBMS has been deployed sporadically around the world in current LTE networks (using eMBMS) but has faced a typical chicken and egg problem. Given that both cell towers and mobile devices need to support the technology, it hasn’t been worth the upgrade cost for the telcos given that eMBMS is not yet supported by many chipsets including Apple’s. Thierry says there is hope for a 5G version of MBMS since Apple is now part of the 3GPP.

CMAF had a similar chicken and egg situation when it was finalised, there was hesitance in using it because Apple didn’t support it. Now with iOS 14 supporting HLS in CMAF, there is much more interest in deploying such services. This is just as well, cautions Thierry, as all the talk of reduced latency in 5G or in the network itself won’t solve the main problem with streaming latency which exists at the application layer. If services don’t abandon HLS/DASH and move to LL-HLS and LL-DASH/CMAF then the improvements in latency lower down the stack will only convey minimal benefits to the viewer.

Sanjay discusses the problem of coverage and penetration which will forever be a problem. “All cell towers are not created equal.” The challenge will remain as to how far and wide coverage will be there.

The panel finishes looking at what’s to come and suggests more ‘federations’ of companies working together, both commercially and technically, to deliver video to users in better ways. Thierry sums up the near future as providing higher quality experiences, making in-stadia experiences great and enabling immersive video.

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Brian Stevenson Brian Stevenson
Streaming Video Alliance
Humberto La Roche Humberto La Roche
Principal Engineer,
Sanjay Mishra Sanjay Mishra
Associate Fellow,
Thierry Fautier Thierry Fautier
President-Chair at Ultra HD Forum
VP Video Strategy Harmonic at Harmonic
Dom Robinson Moderator: Dom Robinson
Co-Founder, Director, and Creative Firestarter

Video: State of the Streaming Market

Streaming Media commissioned an extra mid-year update to their ‘State of the Streaming Market’ survey in order to understand how the landscape has changed due to COVID-19. With a survey already carried out once this year, this special Autumn edition captures the rapid changes we’ve been seeing.

Tim Siglin talks us through the results of the survey ahead of a full report being published. Since the last set of questioning the amount of live vs OTT in the businesses that responded has swung around 5% in favour of live content. The survey indicates that 65% of streaming infrastructure will be software-defined within 24 months, with some adopting a hybrid approach initially.

Tim also unveils a very striking graphic showing 56% of respondents see the internet being their company’s main way of transporting video via IP dwarfing the other answers, the biggest of which is CDN with 25% which covers delivery to CDN by dedicated links or internet links within the cloud.

Zixi is part of the RIST Forum and the SRT alliance, which indicates they understand the importance of multiple-codec workflows. We see the streaming industry is of the same opinion with more than two-thirds expecting to be using multiple protocols over the next twelve months,

Looking at the benefits of moving to the cloud, flexibility is number one, cost savings at three and supporting a virtualised workforce being five. Tim mentions surprise at seeing a remote workforce being only at number five but does suggest without the pandemic it would not have entered the top five at all. This seems quite reasonable as, whatever your motivation for starting using the cloud, flexibility is nearly always going to be one of the key benefits.

Reliability was ranked number two in ‘benefits of moving to the cloud’. The reasons for people choosing that were fairly evenly split with the exception of uptime being 39%. Quality of Service, Quality of Experience and cost all came in around 20%.

Tim Siglin and Gordon Brooks discuss how 5G will impact the industry. Gordon gives a business-to-business example of how they are currently helping a broadcaster contribute into the cloud and then deliver to and end-point all with low-latency. He sees these links as some of the first to ‘go 5G’. In terms of the survey, people see ‘in venue delivery’ as half as likely to be useful for video streaming than distribution to the consumer or general distribution. Tim finishes by saying that although it could well be impactful to streaming, we need to see how much of the hype the operators actually live up to before planning too many projects around it.

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Tim Siglin Tim Siglin
Founding Executive Director
Gordon Brooks Gordon Brooks
Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen Moderator: Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen
Editor, Streaming Media

Video: 5G QuickStart

The best way to cut through the 5G hype is to understand the technology itself. This video explains the acronyms, frequency use, OpenRAN sites, multipath reception, software-defined radio.

Joe Hess starts this talk at NANOG 75 by telling us what 5G isn’t before covering the basics. He talks about NFV, Network Function Virtualisation, which is the ability to move any network function such as firewalls any load balancers into software running on a virtual environment. The flexibility that this provides is significant. Not only does NFV reduce the cost of launching new services and allowing that to happen quicker, all because no new hardware appliances need to be purchased and installed, it is also key to enabling ‘Network slicing’ which is a critical element to making 5G work for the broadcast industry. When you have virtualised the network functions, provisioning a totally new, separate, network can be done via API allowing a broadcaster to have their own cut of the network bandwidth but also have the security of total segregation.

Joe also highlights some other important technologies such as CUPS, which no longer stands for the Common UNIX Printing System, but rather Control and User Plane Separation. Part of CUPS is the ability to use polar codes to represent control data in the same datastream as general traffic. This creates a more robust control channel than the general data without having to create a separate channel. He also discusses the meaning of ‘NR’ or ‘New Radio’ which is a radio protocol replacing UMTS used in 3G and 4G’s LTE. It has the ability to be used on frequencies up to 6GHz and also on 24GHz and above, includes improved OFDM performance, and also run on top of an LTE core.

Please note the audio glitches you hear are on the recording and not due to your system

Joe makes the point that the 5G can run on ‘any’ frequency from 700MHz up and takes a look at the details. He also points out that there’s a lot of information in the press about 5G rollouts including by Telegeography

We next look at cRAN, vRAN and oRAN. cRAN (Cloud Radio Access Network) involves centralising control typically in the cloud. vRAN, Virtual RAN, allows you to choose who receives service from each tower allowing you to share a stadium’s-worth of subscribers or, say the people in a traffic jam, amongst a number of cell towers, not just the one which is closest to them or gives them the best reception. OpenRAN, such as the one just launched in Reading, UK which allows interoperability with open source software and the use of software defined radio.

MIMO is the next topic covered. Joe explains this isn’t new, but it is an important part of 5G. MIMO stands for Mulitple In, Multiple Out which is the ability to use multiple antennae at both ends to deal with the multi-path reflections on the received signal. In the last part of the talk, Joe speaks about mapping 5G deployments, tools you can use to analyse 5G.

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Joe Hess Joe Hess
Hess Communications

Video: The Five Ws of 5G

Following on from last week’s deep dive below the hype of 5G this shorter talk looks both at the promise and implementation challenges of this technology which promises so much to so many different walks of life.

Michael Heiss, takes the stage and starts a short history lesson with 1G (an analogue technology) and shows how it stepped up through 2G A.K.A. GSM and moved into 4G, LTE and now 5G. Michael’s hypothesis is that this is the fourth industrial revolution. The first, he proposes is what we know as the Industrial Revolution which started with harnessing steam power. But until the invention of electricity, you had to be close to your power source. Electricity was the game-changer in enabling people, albeit with the relevant and long wires, to have the machines abstracted from the power generation. Similarly, while data and computing have transformed our world in the past 5 decades or more, Michael says 5G is the technology which will give us that abstraction like electricity to remote people from power production, 5G promises to allow people in general to not have to be next to a computer (where the data is). Michael outlines the ability of higher speeds and lower latency to enable new use-cases. He outlines consumer applications, medical use cases, and business uses.

As with any new technology, there is always a battle for dominance, so Michael outlines some of the different words and phrases used to explain what they mean. If you see “NR”, that stands for New Radio and comes from 3GPP. There are a number of frequency bands which 5G can occupy which Michael introduces. The current bands for 2G and 3G between 700 and 1400 MHz can be used. There are also a number of new frequencies up to and including some C-band frequencies which are in use. These are known, collectively, by some as the ‘sub 6’ frequencies to differentiate them from the millimetre-wave (mm-wave) frequencies which have been opened up starting at 24Ghz up to 47GHz.

It’s an inconvenient truth of physics that higher frequency RF is more highly attenuated in general. This means that the mm-wave frequencies, being so high, are actually only effective with almost direct ‘line of sight’ to the device. They can’t penetrate walls or windows. 5G will need many more cell sites outdoors thanks to the higher sub 6 frequencies, but to use mm-wave, telcos will be restricted to line-of-site transmitter-to-transmitter links or deploying highly local micro or femtocells on lamp posts (light poles) or ceiling mounted internal relays. Michael finishes his talk discussing these implementation difficulties.

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Michael Heiss Michael Heiss
Principal Consultant
M. Heiss Consulting