Mobile CDN Video: How Will the Content Delivery Industry Adjust to 5G

Mobile CDN video has been one of the greatest success stories in the past few years. As access to the internet has blossomed, especially in the developing world such as Africa and Latin America, more and more people are accessing high definition, rich video content on their mobile devices. This is largely due to the ever reducing costs of mobile devices, combined with the speed at which their performance is converging with traditional internet enabled devices. With mobile internet networks being much easier to deploy across large areas, it’s easy to see why mobile internet use and mobile CDN video consumption has flourished.

Unfortunately for global networks, mobile CDN video is bandwidth hungry, meaning that its increasing popularity can cause problems with network congestion. These problems have been less common as more people get access to high speed 4G networks, however as high definition 4K video starts to become adopted as an industry standard, mobile networks will need to develop in order to keep up.

That’s very 5G mobile internet comes in. 5G is the next generation of mobile network and is set to replace 4G, promising huge performance improvements over existing technology allowing for the mobile CDN video delivery of high quality 4K video streams, as well as improvement delivery speeds for traditional static web content

How Can 5G be Monetised?

However, the technology’s roll out is unlikely to come without hurdles. One of the biggest issues around the deployment of 5G is how to best monetise the technology. Ericsson, one Mobile CDN Video: How Will the Content Delivery Industry Adjust to 5Goperators of one of the world’s leading content delivery networks, sees no reason that 5G shouldn’t be a success. “Since 5G networks are designed to operate with ‘slices’, allowing traffic to be segmented according to their specific requirements such as latency or bandwidth constraints,” says Giles Wilson, CTO, head of portfolio & architecture, solution area TV & media, at Ericsson. “5G can usefully be ‘all things to all people’ without significant compromise. This is one of its clear advantages.”

In the effort to help build a business case for 5G, many stakeholders, including mobile operators, phone handset manufacturers and chipset developers are showcasing technologies and providing performance benchmarks whilst deploying upgrading 4G infrastructure in a bid to push for global agreements on the technology, regulation, and market for 5G.

“This is undoubtedly the elephant in the room,” says CCS Insight principal analyst, operators, Kester Mann. “For all the proofs of concept and ‘world first’ demonstrations, the mobile industry appears little closer to establishing solid business cases to justify the significant investment required.”

How 5G Could Revolutionise Online Media and Entertainment

Some companies, including Intel, have commented on the benefits 5G could bring to a variety of industries and categories including automotive, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, homes, buildings, factories, cities and infrastructure. Britain’s EE, owned by BT, has taken this further and been pushing the benefits that 5G for the media and entertainment industry.

“We are pushing the industry in the direction of media and entertainment as a vertical alongside automotive, broadband, manufacturing, and e-health,” says Matt Stagg, who is responsible for video and content technologies at EE.

The key goal is to define what media and entertainment means in this instance. “It is about convergence,” explains Stagg. “5G is more than mobile. It encompasses the contribution and distribution of all media and entertainment.”

This can include many mobile CDN video uses, including IPTV and 4K video to outside broadcast cameras, live and linear video, video on demand (VOD) and caching, and virtual and augmented reality.

“Longer-term it is about looking at the potential of 5G as replacement for DTT [digital terrestrial television],” says Stagg. “We are at an early stage of defining this, but we believe convergence means using the same technology for all TV and video delivery mechanisms rather than using different formats. Because you get less fragmentation the [data] flows end to end and you can streamline the process. We also include radio and audio in this to an extent.”

Stagg goes on to point out that 5G will be particularly useful for broadcasting live events. He states that only around 10 percent of all video captured at a live event (such as a football match) is actually distributed. The transition to 5G mobile CDN video delivery will permit far more of the in-game assets – such as streams from player cams – to be monetised.

EE is also optimistic that 5G will have uses that are much more beneficial for more practical applications.

“Convergence is not just for streamlining video,” Stagg says. “You need to broadcast information to cars that tells the [automated system] when a traffic light is red, for example. Sending the same data to each car is inefficient and adds latency and demand on the network.”

Improving 4G Technologies as a Stopgap

A good way of helping to improve profitability for mobile CDN video delivery technologies is to improve current 4G infrastructure to provide mid-term speeds boost. Much of this work is already underway as mobile operators worldwide look to deploy and promote upgraded versions of 4G. Importantly, a lot of these infrastructure improvements will evolve and be utilised by future 5G networks.

“You can’t afford to focus on 5G without evolving 4G—the two are inseparable,” says Stagg. “You can’t underinvest in 4G and then leapfrog into 5G. It’s not like 3G to 4G, which were completely separate systems. 5G will be built on top of the other from a radio perspective.”

Marketed as 4.5G, 4.9G, LTE Advanced Pro, or Gigabit LTE, CCS Insight calls an improved 4G network “incredibly disruptive.”

“Network operators see Gigabit LTE as an opportunity to extend the return on their investments in 4G networks,” says CCS Insight’s Ben Wood.

Another CSS Insight analyst is convinced that video will be the main monetisation opportunity for companies serving data over this improved 4G network. “Given consumers’ insatiable appetite for connectivity on the go, expect telcos to sway consumers to sign up to bigger bundles,” suggests CCS Insight’s vice president, multiplay and media, Paolo Pescatore.

How Should Publishers Prepare?

Paolo Pescatore also has big ideas for how video publishers should get ready to utilise upgraded 4G and, eventually, 5G technology. “Ultimately, most of the content today is developed for the big screen and then adapted for smaller screens,” Pescatore points out. “Expect most, if not all, content and media owners to continue with this approach. However, some content owners are thinking about developing solely for mobile screens. We don’t foresee any significant changes that need to be undertaken for 5G; not only is it still too early to say, but no changes have previously been made for 3G or 4G.”

It’s inevitable that the way we use our mobile devices will shift with the release of 5G technologies, just as usage norms changed between 3G and 4G mobile networks. According to Futuresource Consulting, the targeted download rate of 5G is 20Gbps and the upload rate is 10Gbps. This means we will have access to fibre-like performance across mobile devices.

“From a content perspective, we could see UHD downloads, access and live sharing or streaming across multiple devices, and higher-quality file formats (i.e., super-high-quality audio),” says Futuresource market analyst Tristan Veale. “Mobile video publishers don’t have to be concerned with tailoring video to a mobile audience, rather they can be concerned with monetizing the content which they are producing for larger screens as they have the access speeds to deliver it.”

Thanks to higher-access bandwidths and more capable mobile devices, Ericsson also believes video publishers will need fewer requirements to prepare content specifically for mobile. “Mobile delivery generally now uses the same delivery protocols, technologies, and video profiles as generic OTT [over-the-top],” says Wilson. “As we move to 5G, we will see this become even more ubiquitous and video delivered over mobile will include full HD and UHD profiles.”

It’s clear to see that 5G offers a huge opportunity for both mobile network operators and video producers. If embraced properly, monetisation options will be numerous, while end users will benefit from high performance, high definition video delivered to their handsets and innovative new technologies delivered to new and exciting internet enabled devices, such as cars and IoT appliances in the home.