There has been a lot of buzz around 5G Broadcast over the past several months. 5G Broadcast promises to provide another way to deliver linear video to mobile devices. One of the benefits touted by advocates of 5G Broadcast is that it is based on the same standard used to deliver commercial wireless services (although, notwithstanding the marketing name, it is actually based on the 4G standard). Depending on who you listen to, 5G Broadcast may be a complement or an alternative to ATSC 3.0 as a path for next generation broadcasting.
While some people (including many ATBA members) have strong opinions about the merits of 5G Broadcast versus ATSC 3.0, we are not going to get into that debate here. Rather, we want to share information about a 5G Broadcast demonstration that XGN Network (which is owned by LPTV Broadcast Association’s “SuperFrank” Copsidas) recently provided in DC. XGEN Network is participating in the experimental 5G Broadcast transmissions at LPTV station WWOO-LD in Boston.
At the event, SuperFrank provided a demonstration of a live broadcast of a feed from France24 to an unreleased smartphone model. SuperFrank described how 5G Broadcast can be used to transmit a signal directly from a tower to a smartphone–even if the user does not have service or an active data plan. Using a 5G Broadcast enabled chip and software, users can display up to two feeds on a broadcast screen.
According to SuperFrank, 5G Broadcast and ATSC 3.0 can co-exist. SuperFrank predicted that consumers will use convergence boxes that accommodate both ATSC 3.0 and 5G in their homes, similar to an Internet router. With such a box, SuperFrank argued, the technology behind the video stream will be indistinguishable to the viewer.
Although WWOO-LD is transmitting a 5G Broadcast signal using an experimental license, there are limited commercially available devices to view a 5G Broadcast signal. SuperFrank said he expects that to change by October 2024 with the release of firmware upgrades and broadcast chips for smartphones.
The marketing push for 5G Broadcast is likely to continue in the coming months. SuperFrank indicated that XGN could conduct several additional demonstrations, including a demonstration of how 5G Broadcast can benefit first responders. As for the WWOO-LD experiment, SuperFrank reported that the picture has not gone down once due to 5G broadcast capabilities since its September 2023 launch (although the picture went down twice for human error).
We will continue to provide ATBA members with updates about new broadcast technologies, including ATSC 3.0 and 5G Broadcast.