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Video like you’ve never experienced before with 5G UHD

UHD video capabilities on 5G will completely change how people enjoy live broadcasts of sport, variety shows, and big events. These new capabilities will lead to a boon in service development in consumer scenarios and showcase the vast improvements in experience that 5G makes possible.

By Wang Zhiyuan and Zhang Xiaodong

Chinese carriers expect the number of 5G users in China to grow to 200 million by the end of 2020, which at that time will be the most in the world.

However, using the data package model of 4G’s best value-for-money will likely make it difficult for carriers to demonstrate 5G's unique value to users or highlight the advantages of 5G services.

This is why carriers in China are bundling 5G packages with different types of ultra-high-definition (UHD) services as standard. UHD services will help carriers encourage users to upgrade to 5G packages and truly show how their 5G service brand and services differ.

What value will 5G 2C UHD services provide for users in the early stages of development? And what will be the best way to leverage the unique advantages of 5G? 

New connections, architecture, and services

A 5G-empowered UHD video industry will realize value in three main ways: new connections, new architecture, and new services.

New connections make production more efficient: Using 5G to backhaul UHD video slashes deployment time by 80 percent compared to optical fiber and microwave. It also enables the freedom to shoot POV video. With super uplink speeds of up to 300+ Mbps, 5G UHD video also does away with the need for live broadcast vehicles.

New architecture guarantees experience: New 5G architecture, such as edge computing and slice management, is expected to cut the latency involved in processing, rendering, and producing UHD video processing to under 10 ms. Slicing can also meet the security requirements of professional media for UHD video transmission.

New services create a new experience: 5G combined with cloud computing will provide new services such as cloud direction, cloud non-linear editing, cloud media & entertainment, cloud super-resolution (SR) imaging, and 2D to 3D conversion. These services will dramatically lower the threshold for producing UHD video, making it much easier to create diverse UHD services.

UHD video will drive massive growth in 5G 2C users

The wide array of 5G 2C UHD services can be broadly classified into three categories:

UHD-evolved Internet services that naturally evolve from existing OTT video services.

Fully interactive UHD services that deliver a new level of immersion.

2B2C UHD services that create a value-added experience for individual users through 5G and cloud service platforms.

UHD Internet services based on huge demand

Huya Live focuses on a 4K resolution and a 60-FPS UHD experience when streaming games. Some of its programs already require a bit rate of up to 20 Mbps, because live streamers want the audience to watch their games at the same image quality as displayed on computer screens. And that’s only possible with 4K-resolution UHD video.

Tencent Video and Migu Video mobile apps have also incorporated UHD features, such as HDR and 50 FPS, into their membership benefits. Mobile users playing scalable 4K UHD video is another driver of this evolution.

Typical scenario 1: 4K free-zoom. We’re used to zooming in on 4K photos on our phones. However, this type of magnification is rarely used on videos, because phones generally only offer 1080P video resolution, resulting in a blurry image. However, zooming in twice on a 4K video on your phone still provide a 1080P image and even three times would still give 720P.

Having a clear image after zooming in would make it possible to smoothly switch between a panoramic view, for example, of a basketball court and the details of particular players, or move back and forth between a single violinist and the view of the orchestra.

Content broadcasters would only need to provide a video of the whole scene and then users could zoom in on what they want to.

The bit rate of 4K video usually exceeds 20 Mbps. In Guangdong the bit rate of 4K live broadcast channels can hit 50 Mbps, but the average download speed of carriers' 4G networks is just 23 Mbps, according to the China Broadband Development Alliance, which means the probability of stuttering is high. With the 1 Gbps offered by 5G networks, this isn’t a concern at all. Put another way, this type of service will be an excellent way to help users actually feel the relative advantages of 5G networks over 4G.

Interactive and personal

Fully interactive UHD services include multi-view, free-viewpoint, and VR multi-view services. Multi-view service means simultaneously pushing multiple viewpoint signals during a broadcast so users can choose to watch video from different views. Free-viewpoint service means providing users with video information from all angles of a venue, such as an arena or stage, so the viewer can rotate between angles. VR multi-view service combines VR 360-degree video data with a digital virtual screen displaying auxiliary information, such as stats like a footballer's goals, a singer's personal info, or info on a museum collection. These services have features that provide users with different multi-dimensional methods of interaction, catapulting video service viewing into an entirely new interactive space.

Typical scenario 2: Multi-view makes the user the director. In traditional live TV broadcasts, directors determine what the audience sees. However, in the multi-view service scenario, it’s possible to simultaneously push video signals from multiple perspectives to the user side.

In live broadcasts of sports events, multi-view services can show, for example, the audience, players, coaches, or the goal. Different live events can be designed to offer views of different value and give users the experience that meets their individual needs.

In multi-view scenarios, more than four video streams need to be simultaneously pushed to users, with the bit rate usually exceeding 30 Mbps. But this would be a typical video scenario on a 5G network.

Typical scenario 3: Free-viewpoint from any angle. Viewers can watch video from any angle by "rotating" through different angles however they like. In a table tennis match, for instance, the viewer could choose a side-on view to the table or an angle facing a player during a tie break. Similarly, Similarly, users can enjoy 360-degree views of, for example, a dance show, basketball match, or concert much in the same way as we can now with video games.

Due to the need for maneuvrability and smooth display, the bit rate of free-viewpoint video exceeds 30 Mbps. Again, it's only possible to completely recreate or even exceed the live viewing experience using free-viewpoint video on a 5G network.

2B2C UHD services: 5G and cloud

2B2C UHD cloud services are UHD services that can provide a value-added experience to C-end users through 5G and cloud. Examples include 5G backpacks that allow camera operators to shoot UHD video while walking around; 5G drones that deliver UHD backhaul from the sky; cloud direction and cloud non-linear editing that support 5G remote switching and greatly enhance the mobility of content production; 2D to 3D conversion services that convert 2D video to 3D video for VR users; and applications like cloud SR imaging that are upgraded to UHD resolution on cloud. 5G's high bandwidth and low latency plus cloud allow users to quickly and flexibly acquire cloud services, greatly reducing on-site service costs for professional UHD filming and helping content producers swiftly connect to new cloud capabilities.

The array of UHD video services in combination with 5G will dramatically enhance the user experience of live broadcasts of sports, variety shows, and large-scale events; promote 5G 2C services; and demonstrate 5G’s value.

Typical scenario 4: VR 2D to 3D conversion. While cloud VR has been commercialized by carriers, the scarcity of VR content has limited its adoption in 2C scenarios. Converting 2D videos on existing networks or 2D live broadcasts to 3D can fill the content gap and, for carriers, enhance the competitiveness of Cloud VR and VR services in 5G 2C scenarios. Providing online 2D to 3D conversion services can also help cloud service providers such as HUAWEI CLOUD attract 2B users for content production and expand their service range.

Typical scenario 5: 5G backpacks for an immersive POV during live broadcasts. For the live broadcast of the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China in 2019, Huawei's Big Video Business Department worked with CCTV and carriers to support mobile UHD filming on three floats and one bicycle using 4K cameras and 5G backpacks throughout the entire celebration.

For camera operators, 5G backpacks eliminate the need for complex optical fiber and microwave deployment and offer amazing portability for filming. They provide directors with multiple mobile camera angles so they can shoot UHD video from previously difficult places, such as the floats and bicycles. 

For carriers, 5G backpacks can improve 2B user stickiness because they provide high-quality 5G backhaul services for professional camera operators. They can also enhance the competitiveness of their video services for 2C users by giving more immersive perspectives thanks to mobile filming.

Unprecedented video experiences

Steve Jobs famously said, "You can transmit information over low bandwidth, but to deliver an emotion you need high-speed bandwidth." 5G networks, which boast downlink rates exceeding 1 Gbps and uplink rates above 100 Mbps, will certainly provide a broader green channel for conveying emotions.

The point of technology is, after all, to serve people. Better experiences will trigger higher demand for bandwidth among users and encourage content and service provision, thereby ensuring information superhighways such as 5G continue to get faster and faster.