The BBC and BT successfully made the UK’s first live TV contribution over a public 5G connection, using EE’s 5G network. On BBC Breakfast this morning, viewers will have seen BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones cover the launch of the UK’s first 5G network from Covent Garden. But they won’t have seen that his segment was also beamed back to BBC New Broadcasting House over the very same 5G network to be played out live in the show.
This is the first time a public 5G network has been used by a production team for a live TV programme, and demonstrates the potential that 5G has in broadcast production. Over time the internet will play an increasingly important role in all aspects of broadcasting – from production scenarios like this, to the way content is distributed and ultimately enjoyed by people wherever they are.
Live outside contributions form a major part of news, current affairs, sport and a range of other programmes. They can be sent back to production studios in a variety of ways, including existing 4G networks. 4G network links require multiple connections to provide the capacity to carry the live video feeds. In this 5G trial only one connection was needed, reducing both the complexity and cost of the production.
To make the trial possible, specialised 5G modems were connected to BBC News cameras to take advantage of the new 5G network. The trial also allowed the teams to explore different encoding options to compress the video, allowing it to be sent back to New Broadcasting House, and decompressing it for live playout.
Matthew Postgate, Chief Technology and Product Officer at the BBC, said: “This is an excellent example of how the BBC experiments with cutting-edge technology to improve how we make programmes. 5G is a hugely interesting area for us to explore, with potential to reduce the cost and complexity of outside broadcasts, and as a way of delivering content to audiences in the future. The internet will play a bigger role in broadcasting and we’re pioneering the techniques, standards and ways of working to truly take advantage of it.”
Alex Tempest, Managing Director, Wholesale at BT said: “We are delighted to demonstrate the power and innovation that 5G can bring to the media and broadcasting industry through our trial with the BBC. Whether on the street, in a stadium or on location, 5G provides a new dimension that can deliver the speed, efficiency and reliability that outside broadcasting requires. And gives broadcasters the ability to deploy equipment quickly and with ease, without having to worry about the connection.”
In addition to production trials, the BBC is also currently running a trial delivering live BBC Radio over 5G in Orkney, exploring how the technology might bring BBC programmes and services to audiences in rural areas. Another recent trial explored how data-rich content like Augmented Reality could be delivered over 5G to audiences in the future.