The BBC has staged the UK’s first ever live broadcast over a commercially available 5G network.
Earlier this morning, BBC Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones broadcasted live from Covent Garden to report on the launch of EE 5G, the UK’s first 5G service. To demonstrate the potential of the technology to viewers, his report was actually transmitted using the EE 5G network.
All four mobile operators have plans to launch 5G networks before the end of 2019, delivering faster speeds, enhanced speeds and lower latency for consumers and businesses. EE’s network is now live in six major UK cities.
- EE begins phase 1 of 5G rollout
- What is 5G? Everything you need to know
- 5G: How will businesses benefit?
Broadcasters have used 4G networks to create content in the past, but these often require multiple connections and lack the capacity and reliability required to be a primary solution. The characteristics of 5G mean that just a single connection is needed, and reliability is vastly improved.
5G promises to reduce the cost and complexity of broadcasting, reducing the number of wires, cameras and cameraman needed and also increasing the range of creative options. It also allows news correspondents to report on events wherever they are.
For this latest BBC broadcast, 5G modems were attached to cameras, while the BBC was also able to test out various encoding methods.
In the future, broadcasters will benefit from network slicing. This effectively allows operators to create a virtual ringfenced network for a single user, guaranteeing a minimum standard of speed and throughput.
“This is an excellent example of how the BBC experiments with cutting-edge technology to improve how we make programmes,” said Matthew Postgate, BBC CTO. “5G is a hugely interesting area for us to explore.
“The internet will play a bigger role in broadcasting and we’re pioneering the techniques, standards and ways of working to truly take advantage of it.”
The BBC is holding a trial to see how BBC Radio can be delivered over 5G in Orkney, while BT Sport has used a pre-commercial 5G network to transmit the EE Wembley Cup.
“We are delighted to demonstrate the power and innovation that 5G can bring to the media and broadcasting industry through our trial with the BBC,” said Alex Tempest, Managing Director, Wholesale at BT.
“Whether on the street, in a stadium or on location, 5G provides a new dimension that can deliver the speed, efficiency and reliability that outside broadcasting requires. And gives broadcasters the ability to deploy equipment quickly and with ease, without having to worry about the connection.”
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.