Zixi Testing 5G As a Transformational Technology for Broadcast Media

Posted January 11, 2021

5G TVNewsCheck

Zixi CEO Gordon Brooks and VP Business Development Eric Bolten speak with TV NewsCheck about the potential impact of 5G on broadcast media, and how Zixi is working with AWS and Verizon to test real-world distribution over 5G Networks.

This is an excerpt from an article originally published in TV NewsCheck by Glen Dickson. Read the full article here.

Wireless carriers have hailed the new 5G communications standard as a transformational technology with a broad range of potential consumer and B-to-B applications, including streaming Ultra HD (UHD) content to smartphones and TV sets, supporting ultra-low-latency cloud gaming, delivering real-time navigation information to autonomous cars and enabling augmented reality (AR) and (VR) experiences for industrial or medical use.

How much of that possibility becomes reality depends on how quickly and deeply 5G gets rolled out, and in what form, as 5G doesn’t actually refer to a single wireless technology but instead encompasses several types of wireless spectrum with different data rates and reception characteristics. For broadcasters, there are near-term B-to-B applications where 5G will be a helpful new tool, and perhaps some long-term direct-to-consumer applications where 5G might represent a competitive threat.

With the ability to deliver high data rates with low latency, 5G could be a very effective contribution path for news or sports coverage, and some broadcasters have already experimented with using 5G as a wireless camera link. With new frequency bands being opened up for 5G, there should be less competition or signals than in the crowded 4G LTE frequencies.

Cloud Implications

5G is also being rolled out as the same time that cloud platforms are bringing more computing power to the “edge,” as in physically closer to end users, and this could have broad implications for programmers that are increasingly moving content production and distribution workflows to the cloud.

Verizon and Amazon Web Services have already formed a partnership where Verizon’s data centers for receiving and processing 5G signals (mobile edge compute, or MEC) are being co-located and connected with AWS compute and storage to allow ultra-low-latency access to the AWS cloud, a service called AWS Wavelength.

AWS Wavelength zones are now operational in 10 U.S. cities with Verizon, including Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver, New York, Miami, Dallas, Seattle, Denver and Las Vegas. AWS has also set them up in Tokyo, Japan with KDDI and in Daejeon, South Korea with SK Telecom, and plans to create additional zones in the U.K. and Germany with Vodafone.

AWS Wavelength General Manager George Elissaios says the partnerships with wireless carriers are part of AWS’ broader effort to bring its cloud computing power closer to customers, along with “AWS Local Zones,” local data centers strategically located in major cities, and “AWS Outposts,” on-premise hardware that runs cloud applications. “We are committed to bringing the cloud to wherever customers need it,” Elissaios says.

Latency Reduction

In this use case, 5G would essentially be used as a wireless end-point connection to the AWS cloud, taking advantage of the robust high-speed fiber backbone Verizon has built to support its 5G network without moving traffic to the open internet or taking an additional hop to an AWS region, which greatly reduces latency.

Zixi has been testing the combined Verizon/AWS system as a solution for both UHD contribution and distribution and has successfully sent video at a data rate of 80-100 Mbps with a latency under 50 milliseconds.

Eric Bolten, Zixi VP Business Development

“The open internet is still underrated,” says Zixi VP of Business Development Eric Bolten. “But 5G in, straight through the MEC, then 5G out, that’s a signal path that’s very difficult to beat in terms of latency.”

Bolten says the 5G-to-cloud workflow could revolutionize sports production, allowing for multiple camera angles that could be used in customized feeds as well as additional real-time data that could drive sports betting applications. Elissaios adds that the new architecture should also greatly improve quality, as broadcasters will be able to send contribution-quality 4K feeds throughout the 5G network all the way to the edge, where final processing will occur.

In the future, 5G could obviously also be used to deliver popular TV programming directly to consumers, either to their smartphones or to their TVs through fixed wireless receivers (fixed wireless was the first 5G product that Verizon launched in late 2018). That could be in the form of simple broadband connectivity that consumers would use to access different OTT services, or as a virtual MVPD service over 5G that would compete with existing cable and satellite operators.

The unicast nature of 5G could also support the delivery of personalized content and targeted advertising.

Gordon Brooks, Zixi’s CEO and Executive Chairman
Gordon Brooks, Zixi CEO and Executive Chairman

New Distribution And Contribution Options

A gradual shift from satellite to terrestrial distribution, either by fiber or public internet, has been underway for years, notes Zixi CEO Gordon Brooks, and the reallocation of C-band spectrum for mid-band 5G has several broadcast customers considering the use of 5G as a satellite replacement.

Zixi is already working with a financial news network to move its premium streaming service, Bloomberg TV+, to 5G distribution using the Verizon/AWS architecture. The company is also exploring how a traditional linear cable network could be distributed via 5G, by placing a “Mi-Fi”-type 5G receiver at the cable headend that would connect to an integrated receiver/decoder.

Learn more about Zixi’s 5G tests with Verizon and AWS.