5G-Media Initiative take position about radio broadcasting over 5G networks

[Munich, 22 July 2019] Against the background of the discussion about radio broadcasting with 5G, a distinction must be made between 5G mobile radio in unicast mode and 5G broadcast mode.

5G mobile radio

5G will enter the market over the next few years as a pure mobile system (unicast, point-to-point connections). For the technical possibilities of a radio broadcasting (audio streams), there are only marginal differences between this and the existing 4G mobile radio (LTE).

As technology provided by mobile network operators, 5G will be geared to their economic framework conditions. A 5G area coverage in unicast mode, which would be approximately comparable with broadcasting systems, is not foreseeable at present. Unicast broadcasting of radio via audio streaming in the mobile radio system has been technically possible for many years.

5G-Broadcast

For years, European broadcasting has been committed to extending the 5G standard in such a way that the distribution of linear TV programmes will be possible in the future. For this existing broadcasting transmitters (High Tower High Power) can be used, bysimilar to DVB-T2, which simultaneously transmit a signal from one transmitter to an unlimited number of recipients is sent. This allows an independent network operation through Broadcasting network operators. These extensions of the global 5G standard are publicly discussed under the title “5G Broadcast”, technically they are FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service).

The standard extension and the planned supply structures are based on the requirements of TV broadcasting. The primary goal is to bring free-to-air TV services to devices such as smartphones, tablets and vehicles. The distribution of linear TV programmes for extensive, parallel use benefits from a broadcast mode due to the high data rates. There is no doubt that, from a technical point of view, 5G broadcast can also be used for the distribution of linear radio programmes. The special requirements of radio for the distribution of its linear content, such as nationwide coverage and regionalization, are not automatically met by the introduction of 5G broadcasting. The current coverage targets are based on the specifications for TV.

The radio market alone does not have sufficient economic potential to drive the penetration of 5G broadcasting. Only when the 5G broadcast market for TV has been launched will there theoretically be options for radio broadcasting. As a consequence, this means that even a market success of 5G broadcast for TV does not automatically mean a successful usage option for radio broadcasting. A successful market launch of 5G broadcast for TV still has a few hurdles to overcome. First and foremost is the availability of chipsets and terminals that support 5GB broadcast, as well as sufficient spectrum. The 5G Media Initiative is working across industries on these issues to drive 5G broadcasting forward.