Preetham Uthaiah
EVP, Marketing & Strategy

5G Broadcast could resolve WFH challenges during this world-wide lockdown!

Of course nobody saw a global crisis of this magnitude coming, although there have been a number of science fiction books and movies that have given us a sneak peek at almost identical scenarios. It is unfortunate that the pandemic has caused so much destruction of life and the lifestyles of people across the globe. I really hope that the situation will improve, and people get relief from this pandemic. Yet, as India and the rest of the world grapples to cope with the challenges of a COVID-19-forced-work-from-home, here are three thoughts that stand out.

Thought number one – It is not just work and workplaces that the lockdown has redefined. It has also redefined the world of education, the world of entertainment, health-care consultations, the world of communication and] information sharing, to mention just a few. For example, in the early days of March, a senior astronomer in Tucson,Arizona cancelled in the last minute, a conference hosting over 150 participants who were flying in from different countries. To the credit of histech support team, almost overnight, – the entire conference was made virtual using Zoom and Bluejeans. Attendees from across countries and continents could dial in and participate, during sessions, on all five days of the conference.

The CEO of a leading management consulting company which holds annual global confluence, posted on LinkedIn how they got the event turned round and held online, in record time. These companies are not unique. All around the world, several meetings, some with more than 1000 attendees have been converted to virtual meetings overnight.

In addition, as you read, teachers around the world are uploading study content online, so students can dial in, consult with their teachers, speak with their classmates, and stay connected through this period of isolation. In short, live, virtual classrooms are being set up. From pre-schoolers to post-doctoral scholars, the story is the same.

Families who are separated by distances, are sharing video updates, almost hourly to reassure their loved ones, or to check in on them. Doctors are consulting with OPD patients, online. Then, there is a huge population with the extra time on their hands, all of a sudden. What are the chances that they are discovering the joys of video streaming (OTT) on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Hulu, Sling TV, HBO Now, Pureflix, Hallmark Movies, etc. Video consumption on the rise The point here is that all of these highlight the voluminous video content that is being transmitted out there, using available broadband network. And much of this data is being simultaneously consumed across multiple mobile devices. Now is this the most efficient solution or technology available? Of course not!

This is not the most efficient way to navigate this space. It is but obvious that the system is overloaded and overburdened. Even before the lockdown, video traffic occupied more than 70% of mobile network traffic, overburdening the network, decreasing the call quality and increasing the overall cost of network for the mobile operator. The most recent article a leading news media indicated that the mobile network is running at 100% of its capacity due to this new situation. Now, with many people working from home and using home broadband network to stream OTT on their devices, even those networks and services are getting choked. Netflix has already annouced that it will be only streaming content in Standard definition (SD) quality to reduce the traffic in the network.

Something has to give. At some point, soon. Thought number two – exponents have been shouting themselves hoarse about the merits of deploying 5G Broadcast, an innovative solution based on a converged Broadband and Broadcast networks. This revolutionary data transmission solution is designed to provide a superior user experience to users across devices. A fifth-generation data transmission innovation, the 5G Broadcast solution is developed to allow more devices to access voluminous data simultaneously, via a single broadcast and intelligently direct and route traffic across the network.

Among its advantages are the fact that 5G Broadcast will ease network congestion; improve user experience; provide a smart data pipe for content; monetize broadcast spectrum and provide live streaming on-the-go sans data caps. This new way of delivering content using ‘cellularized’ Broadcast network also relieves the burden on OTT platforms by minimizing the unicast streams that needs to be created to deliver content to every single device.

This also gives a platform to deliver critical emergency alert messages directlyto mobile phones and other devices, including TV screen etc using a much more efficient Broadcast network, rather than a Unicast network.

Though number three – Call to action
The main reason that such an impactful and cost effective solution has been left in the lurch is because of the lack of understanding and unwillingness of the stakeholders to change the rules of the game by deploying such network and putting the Broadcast spectrum to good use. This spectrum is owned by traditional broadcasters across the world (some private and in some cases they are the government owned entities) and they don’t necessarily understand the ‘mobile’ game very well. If they make up their minds and come out of their comfort zone of traditional Broadcasting mindset, not only they can put Broadcast spectrum, a precious natural resource to good use for the benefit of the public, but they can also generate tremendous amount of economic benefits to themselves and the government. As they say, Broadcasting actually ‘multiplies’ your network capacity while Unicast divides it!!!

With lockdown scenarios moving out of the realm of fiction into the world of reality, the switch from traditional broadcasting to 5G Broadband will not be a choice, but an imperative. The sooner we get on that bandwagon, the better for all of us.