Efficient and cost-effective broadcasting of TV programmes to smartphones and tablets has come a step closer to reality.
In June 2017, the 3G Partnership Project (3GPP) international standardisation body finalised Release 14, which supports critical prerequisites for broadcast content delivery in large-cell 4G and 5G networks. At their third conference in Munich, the 5G Media Initiative, a special-interest group made up of leading corporations and organizations, announced that with these enhancements, Release 14 offers characteristics that approximate those enjoyed with classical terrestrial broadcast methods.
With Release 14 finalised, implementation in devices, services and networks can be started. The extensions to the 3GPP standard include numerous improvements to the existing evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast System (eMBMS). These improvements provide the technical framework for economical programme delivery and unrestricted access to TV programmes. The new specification includes features such as reception without a SIM card and without authentication, as well as the option of using up to 100 % of the available transmission capacity for broadcast applications. Significantly enlarged transmitter spacings permit the use of broadcast transmitter stations for economical area coverage. A receive-only mode without requiring a return channel was also established in the 3GPP standard.
Network operators will be able to combine various TV content delivery methods along with interactivity. Mobile network operators do not need to transmit TV programmes in all of their networks simultaneously, which yields a high degree of efficiency. Transmission via a separate broadcast transmitter network would also be possible, allowing all wireless devices to receive TV programmes, whether or not a contract is in place. The standard also specifies that transport and coding formats currently employed in broadcasting shall also be available for use in 4G and 5G networks.
The requirements for improvements to the successful LTE/eMBMS standard had previously been defined by EBU, SWR, IRT, BBC and RAI along with industry partners, including Qualcomm, Nokia and Ericsson, and submitted to 3GPP. At the same time, the foundations for a seamless transition to 5G standardisation currently underway were laid; the standardisation is planned to be implemented in an initial phase in conjunction with LTE.
The first version of the new 5G standard is expected to be available by 2018, after which it will be continually enhanced to become a universal system for high-bandwidth data applications.
Starting in 2020, additional enhancements for broadcast applications are expected as part of 5G; these could be available by 2025 as popular broadcast services for the mass market.