Developing 5G skills
Posted on Mar 3, 2021 by FEED Staff
Zixi is developing tools in partnership with Verizon and AWS to make 5G a go-to technology for live broadcast
IP networks are well-established in the world of media production. The question companies now ask is not whether to incorporate IP-based tools, but which flavours they will use and in what ways. The newest addition to the mix is 5G cellular technology, which enables much faster data speeds and lower latency, creating better experiences for end users and new opportunities for content creators and owners.
But moving broadcast-quality live video across a public IP network of any kind requires a smart protocol to protect and a software platform to orchestrate and manage that stream.
Video transport specialist Zixi has been working on improving the delivery of live video over 5G in partnership with Verizon and AWS via its new AWS Wavelength Zones, which embed AWS compute and storage services within data centres at the edge of a 5G network.
Zixi isn’t just experimenting for the fun of it, it’s currently working with a major broadcaster committed to going live with broadcast-quality video over 5G technology immediately.
“Broadcast quality means ‘no errors,’” says Zixi’s CEO, Gordon Brooks. “When it comes to 5G, people don’t think about the B2B media workflows companies use to deliver content. They think of the possibilities for consumers or in-venue experiences, but there are also cost-effective 5G capabilities available now that enable you to do things you can’t with satellite.”
This first use case involves a distribution in which 5G bonded with 4G LTE Advanced will be used to deliver a national broadcaster’s content live to affiliates across the country in 4K UHD.
“Distributing 4K over satellite just breaks the satellite – too many bits and bytes,” says Brooks.
“So we’re taking a live signal from New York using the Zixi protocol, putting it into the AWS Wavelength Zone via 5G and moving it to where it can best be distributed to those affiliates via 5G all managed by Zixi’s Software-Defined Video Platform.”
There are also cost-effective 5G capabilities available now that enable you to do things you can’t do with satellite
AWS Wavelength Zones are still being rolled out across the US so Zixi has developed some clever workarounds. Many regions will still be running 4G LTE Advanced networks, and Zixi is able to bond 4G LTE and 5G availability together, which allows sharing of bandwidth between the two signals as well as a fail-safe in the case of complete failure of one or the other. The cellular bonding is backed up with contribution from the public internet, allowing the signal to reach just about any location. This is broadcast television, so the bar is 99.999% reliability.
Zixi also employs network-aware adaptive bit rate technology to help mitigate against throttling bandwidth speeds on the fly.
“Using Zixi’s unique ability to adapt the video quality to the available bandwidth, hence maintaining stream continuity and minimising QoE impact,” explains Zixi’s vice-president of customer success and solutions, Emeka Okoli. “This advantage can be leveraged by endpoint devices with varying degrees of bit rate thresholds.”
Content security over 5G has also been part of the Zixi/Verizon trials. 5G brings benefits for connectivity, but what content security advantages – or vulnerabilities – come along with it?
“Protecting content as the signal traverses different various network segments is paramount,” says Okoli. “Zixi applies several security mechanisms, such as DTLS using ZEN Master to mitigate against eavesdropping, DDoS and man-in-middle attacks. These security mechanisms help certify that all the recipients along the chain are who they say they are.”
There are many opportunities out there for 5G to improve the customer experience, as well as drive new revenue.
“The cinema industry, for example, has been one of many sectors hardest hit by this year’s Covid-19 pandemic,” explains Okoli. “5G can offer a technological boost for big-screen venues with ultra-low-latency, high-volume data transfer to leverage live broadcast content, high-quality – even 8K – content for sports.
“Besides being more reliable, the truth is that speed does matter on 5G. For instance, Zixi’s free OnAIR mobile app has been used for live sports and ENG across hundreds of stations. With Verizon 5G, along with Zixi’s adaptive bonding, we were able to successfully test a live 4K 60p contribution feed from an iPhone at 20Mbps bit rate at under 100 milliseconds. The test was conducted with bonded multiple 5G access points for seamless fail-over.”
He concludes: “Consumers will expect to experience higher quality feeds for various live content, such as breaking news events, live sports and crowd sourced content. This is truly game changing.”
This article first featured in the Winter 2020/21 issue of FEED magazine.