With 5G Video Transmission, Live Truly Does Mean Live

A group of friends watching a match on TV
Live video transmission over 3G networks has revolutionized the way the media works. Aviwest is shaping the future of live video and has been working with Orange since 2008. Today, 5G is taking this technology to a new level, with the sports world taking a keen interest in these developments.

For a long time, streaming live content required complicated infrastructure. To film and broadcast a live report from a foreign country, journalists and camera crew were needed, as well as a production team and a van featuring a satellite antenna. This equipment was used to send back recorded footage to the home country’s media control room for broadcasting on the station.

That era has come to an end. In 2008, the five founders of Aviwest wagered that cellular networks could transmit live videos. Their first users were 24-hour news stations, who were quick to realize the potential of an ultra-compact system embedded in the camera itself. With the roll-out of 3G, followed by 4G, these practices are becoming the norm for large media groups, as well as for small audiovisual production companies. Aviwest has subsequently become a world-renowned player in this field.

A Clever Combination of Technologies

Live streaming via cellular networks is cheaper, more flexible and higher quality. It is now not only possible to transmit HD images, but also UHD images (six times the resolution of HD). As Ronan Poullaouec, Aviwest CTO, explains: “Our solution integrates the latest digital coding algorithms. Right from the start, video compression was a crucial challenge to be able to transmit videos at 3G speeds without reducing quality. In addition, cellular networks came with variable speeds, but without bandwidth guarantee. This is particularly true of places with large crowds, such as concerts, sports matches, etc. For professionals, we had to make the transmission robust, regardless of the environment or the number of users on the network. With this solid technological foundation, our solution has expanded to cover increasingly complex and demanding needs.” Where 3G and 4G have revolutionized the way the media works, 5G is set to transform the sports industry.

Live Truly Does Mean Live

Even today, due to the frequent use of satellites, sports TV broadcasts suffer from high latency. This means there is a delay between what is happening live and what you see on the screen. “With 5G, we are able to send all camera feeds directly and almost instantaneously to the media control room, which is sometimes thousands of miles away in the station’s studios. The entire production team no longer needs to be on-site. This advancement proved to be critical during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions. However, it is likely that these use cases will continue into the future, as they cut costs for production companies.” Aviwest’s 5G Live Remote Production solution relies on better network availability, lower latency and gigabit speeds. When standalone 5G is rolled out, latency will be in the range of milliseconds and slicing will provide professionals with dedicated bandwidth, even in a packed stadium. Racing cars will also be equipped with 5G cameras to stream immersive live videos.

Advance Testing

Aviwest is relying on the Orange 5G Lab teams in Rennes for the final stages of developing the solution. Ronan Poullaouec notes that “over the past few weeks, we have been able to test our equipment, check assumptions and demonstrate future use cases that will be adopted by stations as early as 2022 for the Beijing Winter Olympics. Using testing infrastructure on the carrier side of the field is very useful, as it is close to our R&D labs and allows us to benefit from the insights that Orange experts have on 5G. A partnership like this makes us more competitive because the second that the networks are rolled out, we are already ready to serve our customers in the best possible way.”Orange and Aviwest have been working together ever since the carrier invested in the start-up through one of its investment funds several years ago. As a result, Aviwest was previously able to conduct 4G experiments from the start of the partnership. With its new 5G-based solution, Aviwest is trusted by sectors including media, sports events, entertainment and all operators that offer live streaming remotely from their media control room.

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Orange innovation prepares for the most demanding uses of 5G

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Live streaming has become increasingly widespread. With the addition of 5G, this service can be dramatically improved at all levels, including image quality, download times, interruptions and lag. Faced with today’s generations’ enthusiasm for live feeds, researchers are now working to adapt live streaming TV so it can be done on the go. The Goal: Lag-Free Live Streams Getting closer to what’s happening live is one of the main challenges in the field of live streaming. Yet, streaming over the Internet using Wi-Fi or 4G still results in a lag of 30, 40 or even 50 seconds on tablets or smartphones. This lag will particularly hit home for any soccer fans who have ever heard their neighbor watching TV and cheering for a goal they haven’t seen yet. It also affects participants in time-limited interactive TV game shows and televised broadcasts by figures of authority in relation to announcements, alerts or disasters, for example. Ensuring service continuity, particularly when faced with high demand, is another challenge of live streaming. At Orange Innovation, researchers are therefore thinking about how they can make improvements in the field of TV streaming on the go, using a combination of 5G, video streaming technologies (multicast, low latency), network bandwidth allocation (network slicing) and edge computing. Their work has primarily focused on mutualizing streams; a key way of saving bandwidth. Dominique Thômé, Product Manager Innovation Data TV, explains that “Unlike unicast technology, which broadcasts streams as many times as there are simultaneous connections, multicast should allow a single stream to be broadcast to thousands of people connected to a large 5G zone. This mutualization prevents bandwidth loss and, consequently, service interruptions from network congestion. Another advantage, which is of great importance to Orange, is that it consumes less energy and therefore contributes to the transition to a low-carbon economy.” Recognizing the Know-How of Carriers Experiments carried out in the Orange laboratory have yielded interesting results. A real-time readjustment of video quality to prevent network saturation resulted in each customer being able to watch TV with only five seconds of lag, confirming the feasibility of 5G live streaming on the go. In fact, faced with ever-increasing volumes, some broadcasters are beginning to turn to carriers to broadcast their TV streams. They need players that are able to transmit this huge amount of data while ensuring optimal quality, in order to avoid any latency problems. Thibaut Mathieu, Director of Innovation for Interactive & Multiscreen Services at Orange says that “Our pioneering approach toward 5G live streaming highlights the valuable role that network carriers play, right at the heart of the system, compared to OTT players (“over the top,” such as the Tech Giants), both in terms of technology and business. We will be able to get involved in data transmission, with optimal mutualization technology that will save money and energy.” These technologies are consistent with Orange’s CSR commitment, both in terms of carbon footprint (lower energy consumption) and inclusion (broadcasting the right information at the right time). More than Just Entertainment The challenge goes far beyond the traditional TV broadcasting market itself. In the context of the health crisis, brands have been quick to understand the value of live streams to generate sales and are starting to venture into “Live Shopping.” Originating from China, this large-scale approach to teleshopping consists of an online event where presenters, influencers or personalities showcase products live to a digital audience who are able to order products or ask questions. Live Shopping is attracting more and more brands around the world. “With hundreds of thousands of people connected at the same time, its large scale will certainly create capacity issues” says Thômé. “This is another case where mutualization will ensure quality of service.”

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