The new NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) digital broadcast system is just rolling out in the United States, and already the industry is looking at the emergence of 5G wireless as the potential future for digital content access around the world.

A growing number of television broadcasters across the globe view the new 5G wireless broadband platform to be the likely successor to traditional digital video distribution platforms in the next several years, according to a recent survey conducted for Norwegian virtualized media production firm, Nevion.

The survey that was conducted for Nevion by OnePoll, found some 2% of broadcasters contacted around the world indicated they expect the next-generation cellular communications infrastructure will emerge as the new preferred way to access content. Nevio said 225 broadcasters across Europe, Australia, China and North America were contacted for the survey to help ascertain how the industry sees the emergency of 5G impacting their businesses and to uncover any issues they might see as potential obstacles.

In general, the survey that was first announced in parts last month, showed more than 90% of broadcasters contacted are expecting to adopt 5G technology over the next several years.

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A further release of survey data this week showed that approximately 37% of the respondents said they expect 5G to begin replacing traditional broadcast distribution platforms including digital terrestrial television (DTT), digital TV (DTV) and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) within one or two years. Some 10% surveyed said they expect 5G will take more than three years to overtake traditional content distribution platforms, and some 94% of broadcasters polled said they think 5G is going to increase the consumption of content overall.

Some 82% think 5G will eventually replace traditional terrestrial broadcasting, satellite and other distribution methods for content access.

Nevion cited the growing popularity of streaming TV services over conventional linear television delivery as the key driver in this trend, while the desire for more effective content streaming on the go as well as at home is another expected popular benefit.

In the meantime, DTT continues to provide a superior power-efficient linear digital broadcast distribution vehicle that overcomes some of the shortcomings with current mobile technology. There was also a key distinction between the potential of service provider offerings for broadcast media consumption and the use of the 5G radio technology to provide future real time broadcast distribution capability.

Nearly half of the broadcasters surveyed think the biggest challenge of using 5G will be issues with network performance and coverage. Other areas of concern with the platform included: reliability (26%), network security (22%), and the environmental impact of 5G.

“5G technology can potentially deliver OTT broadcast services with the quality required not only for mobile devices, but also for TV screens at home,” stated Nevion chief technologist Andy Rayner. “This could mean, as our research uncovered, that 5G is eventually likely to usurp DTT for consumers at home as well as on the move. In the long term, it is likely that 5G mobile technology could become the standard means to deliver terrestrial television. However, it is expected that both DTT and 5G delivery (when ready) will co-exist for a reasonable time.”

All told, the survey revealed it is still very early in the deployments of 5G infrastructure making it too early to tell when 5G will begin to deliver the most value in the broadcast chain, but at the very least, Nevion advises broadcasters engaged with DTT to begin consulting experts to stay in step with the evolution of 5G broadcast technology.

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By Greg Tarr

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