What Media Players Need to Know About the 5G Revolution

Contrary to the belief of many, 5G isn’t a phenomenon awaiting us on the distant horizon: It’s knocking on doors, Smart TVs, phones and tablets, ready to enter our homes at any moment. In fact, it’s already available for commercial use in some urban centers, and is expected to account for one-fifth of global connections by 2025.

Michael Hibbert

Michael Hibbert

5G is making waves across industries such as mobile, manufacturing and automotive, but many in the media industry have not yet realized exactly how impactful the technology will be. Why aren’t media players gearing up for its arrival?

While 5G promises low latency and speeds up to 100 times faster than its fourth-generation predecessor, some cable companies are under the illusion that the shift will be comparable to that from 3G to 4G. This is far from the truth: 5G will bring sweeping changes to the ways content is created and consumed, and media players need to be prepared if they want to stay in the game.

Whether it’s an over-the-top (OTT) platform or a traditional cable company, these services need to realize that 5G is coming and can’t be ignored. Here’s what they need to know.

System Capabilities to Expand
5G promises to bring lower latency and faster data-processing power than ever before, meaning streaming platforms will have to expand their data-processing infrastructure if they are to leverage the technology. Higher speeds means a faster rate of incoming data - so more capable systems are necessary to be able to utilize it to its full extent.

OTT platforms should be making sure that their content is accessible through 5G-enabled devices and platforms such as smart home devices. This also includes VR/AR devices, which have been steadily growing in popularity and are set to thrive upon the arrival of widespread, commercially-available 5G networks.

Mobile companies AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Communications are rolling out high-band spectrum 5G to deliver the highest performance, offering peak speeds of 10 gigabits per second and extremely low latency. With many of these mobile companies (Verizon and AT&T) also in the media business, they are already a step ahead of the rest in terms of infrastructure-readiness. Those media players that aren’t yet paying attention to building out their systems to deal with 5G will get left behind if they don’t act soon.

R&D Investment to be Key
With an expanded data-processing infrastructure comes the need for an expansion in the team that builds, maintains and extracts data insights from it. These teams will need to understand the difference between profitable data and irrelevant data.

For example, focusing on data that delivers insights into the behavioral profiles of users will become even more fruitful as 5G allows platforms to access this data in unforseen amounts. But without the right resources for this in-house or the help of an expert third-party vendor, media companies won’t be able to maximize the data that they’re pulling in thanks to 5G.

Netflix has been consistently investing in its data science team to glean valuable behavioral data from the platform to drive its algorithm and enhance user experience (UX). The platform can access data such as the time and date a user watched a show, the device used, if and when the show was paused, how much of the show was watched, how long it took for a user to finish a show/series, content ratings, popular searches, and more.

These insights all help the platform provide a personalized experience for each individual user.

With 5G, all of this data will come in faster. Streaming companies need to have the infrastructure to process the data, as well as the right team to develop algorithms and extract actionable insights to compete in the ongoing streaming wars. Ultimately, whoever can process 5G data the fastest, gather impactful insights, and take the subsequent action, will position themselves as a front-runner in this race for viewer eyeballs.

Content to Be Watched, Created Faster
It’s no secret that 5G is going to speed up the rate at which people consume content — and not just because they won’t have to wait for it to “buffer.”

No longer will viewers be restricted as to where they can watch content. On the road with patchy signal? Traveling somewhere remote? No problem: With 5G, users will be able to watch anything they want, virtually anywhere, with extremely low latency and with diminished delays while scrolling through the platform itself and choosing content.

In fact, the 5G target for latency is one millisecond or less: “It’s as fast as your brain processes reality,” AT&T Business chief marketing officer Mo Katibehb said.

And with sped-up consumption times comes higher demand for more content — fast. In order to keep up with this increased thirst for faster-delivered content that doesn’t compromise on quality, media companies will have to speed up production. What used to take six months to create must now take two.

Sounds unfeasible? Not as much as you might think. 5G will also play a huge role in speeding along the production process. Making data-driven decisions during pre-production, creating special effects, and editing final content post-production will become faster and more efficient thanks to 5G.

With all of the doubts from some media professionals, it’s easy to underestimate the effects of 5G on the media landscape. Yes, universal coverage might still be a few years away, but that doesn’t mean that businesses that need to leverage the technology should delay preparations. Once 5G is rolled out, it will hold a firm place in the lives of today’s consumers — media organizations that don’t facilitate 5G usage and leverage its power will be surpassed.

Michael Hibbert is the director of business development at intive, a digital solutions firm that creates custom software for media companies and other business clients.