5G Media Initiative recently published the following statement regarding 5G broadcast and radio:
5G mobile radio
Over the next few years, 5G will enter the market as a pure mobile radio system (unicast, point-to-point connections). The technical possibilities of radio broadcasting (audio streams) are therefore only marginally different from the existing 4G mobile radio (LTE).
As a technology provided by mobile network operators, 5G will be geared to their economic framework conditions. A 5G area coverage in a unicast mode, which would be approximately comparable with broadcasting systems, is currently not in sight. Unicast broadcasting of radio via audio streaming in the mobile radio system has theoretically been possible for many years.
For years, European broadcasters have been committed to extend the 5G standard in such a way that linear TV programmes can be transmitted in the future. For this purpose, existing transmitters (High Tower High Power) can be used to send a signal simultaneously from one transmitter to an unlimited number of receivers – similar to DVB-T2. This allows an independent network operation by broadcasters. These extensions to the global 5G standard are publicly discussed under the title “5G broadcast”, technically known as FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service).
The standard extension and the planned coverage structures are based on the requirements of TV broadcasting. The primary goal is to introduce free-to-air TV services to devices such as smartphones, tablets and vehicles. Distribution of linear TV programmes for extensive, parallel use benefits from a single broadcasting mode. This is because conventional streaming of content requires high data rates.
There is no doubt that from a technical point of view, 5G broadcast can equally be used for the distribution of linear radio programmes as well. The special requirements for radio distribution of its linear content, such as nationwide coverage and regionalization, are however not automatically met by the introduction of 5G broadcast. The current coverage targets are based on the requirements for TV.
The pure radio market does not have enough economic potential to drive the market penetration of 5G broadcast. Only when the 5G broadcast market for TV is established, there may be theoretical options for radio broadcasting. Consequently, this means even a market success of 5G broadcast for TV does not automatically mean a potential successful use for radio broadcasting.
A successful market launch of 5G broadcast for TV still must overcome some obstacles. First and foremost, the availability of chipsets and terminals that support 5G broadcast, as well as sufficient spectrum. The 5G Media Initiative is working across industries on these issues to push 5G broadcast forward.