Next-gen 5G delivery = opportunity for content companies

Want one word to describe 5G, the next-gen wireless technology set for widespread global deployment by mid-2020? How about change? Or, better yet, opportunity? Especially for content companies.

At last week’s inaugural Mobile Video Industry Council in London, attendees were told as much as 90% of all 5G traffic could be mobile video, based on current trends and the upward trajectory of mobile video traffic, which has grown more than 50% year-on-year.

“When 4G was launched, it was all about mobility and connectivity. 4G provided the impetus for companies like Uber, Waze and Spotify,” said John Giere, president and CEO of Openwave Mobility. But 5G, he said, “will have far more data intensive services that operators may struggle to grapple with. For example, Augmented Reality can be 33x more data intensive than 480p video, and once 5G comes to the fore, it is expected that OTT services will have more subscribers than pay TV customers.”

In the United States, AT&T and Verizon are pushing to deploy the technology quickly. Verizon, in August, said it planned to partner with Apple and YouTube to deploy 5G in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif., by the end of the year. It said subscribers will be able to use an Apple TV 4K to stream 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) video as part of its 5G residential broadband package, with YouTube TV being part of the deployment, as well.

5G technology, said Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s chief executive officer, “will disrupt the entertainment industry further.”

AT&T, meanwhile, last week said it had successfully tested a 5G hotspot, which it plans to offer for sale by the end of the year. The Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot will be able to be used only in regions where the telco is testing its 5G technology, but that could be a dozen cities soon, including Atlanta, Dallas and Oklahoma City, with another 10 added next year.

The big deal here, of course, is that AT&T succeeded its first millimeter wave” 5G connection over a live network, and that the connection was a Wi-Fi hotspot rather than directly to a smartphone, expanding its functionality.

Talk at the Mobile Video Industry Council’s meeting, meanwhile, was dominated by discussions about the growth in volumes of video traffic, driven in large part by consumers’ demand for higher bandwidth HD content, rather than greater watch time only. The Council highlighted the stress placed on networks by live events, especially sporting occasions, such as Russia 2018. Here data consumption during a match was found to be double the data consumed during the “busy hour” for the remainder of the year.

5G’s promise is more than just mobile video, it’s seen as a potential replacement for home broadband in general as well as digital terrestrial television (DTT).

“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,” Matt Stagg, mobile video and content chief at BT’s EE told Streaming Media.

What’s it mean for content owners?

Continued growth and opportunities for OTT plays, for one thing, as more consumers migrate away from traditional pay TV. Both subscription and ad-supported services should flourish and, especially in the case of AVOD, 5G mobile delivery will be capable of providing more data from which to create actionable insights… personalization of advertising will be critical. For SVOD services, 5G will drive the trend of content personalization, even micro-personalization, to better engage viewers.

5G also will open a market for content creators looking to focus on mobile, delivering shorter content designed for smaller screens. But, consumers really haven’t shown they’re interested in content developed solely for mobile devices… so that may be a chimera, just wishful thinking.

In the end, good content is good content, and consumers already have made it clear that’s what they want.

But 5G also is going to be a major player in delivering sports. Mobile already is grabbing significant share of major sporting events like the World Cup and, as the NFL has seen, mobile views are growing tremendously – especially to younger, more at-risk audiences that have moved away from traditional delivery.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn