Posted by Andrew Murphy on , last updated
BBC R&D is working to define what the next generation of wireless standards (‘5G’) might mean for audiences and what role they could play in enabling the delivery of the new content experiences that we are currently developing such as Ultra-High Definition (UHD) video, 360 and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences, object-based media and more.
One application for 5G is its potential use for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), i.e. as a means to provide high-speed broadband to homes and businesses, and this is being trialled in London by Arqiva and Samsung. Any technology that has the potential to increase the availability of broadband to homes and business could bring benefits to audiences by making the BBC’s Internet-based services more readily and widely available.
The trial involves the simultaneous carriage of multiple streams of video content over a high-bitrate point-to-point link and includes examples of exciting new creative opportunities from the BBC:
- ‘Attenborough-360’, a 360 degree Virtual Reality (VR) experience
- ‘Planet Earth II’, transmitted in Ultra High Definition (UHD), Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG)
In order to simultaneously deliver multiple bandwidth-intensive UHD and VR streams over the same 5G link, BBC R&D’s Turing Codec, a state-of-the-art H.265/HEVC open-source software video codec, was used to compress the content prior to its transmission.
The codec is highly efficient, capable of delivering video compression close to the limits of HEVC. Its use in this trial was crucial to significantly reduce the size of each stream while preserving the very high visual quality of this demanding content. While for such content previous standards require more than 50 Mbps for visually lossless compression, HEVC (including the Turing codec) provide the same visual quality while halving the bitrate requirements. Moreover, this was the first time that the HEVC Turing codec has been deployed in a 5G scenario, demonstrating the codec’s interoperability with the 5G wireless system, the state of the art displays and the VR headgear.
The 5G wireless high bandwidth connectivity used in the trial implements intelligent beam-forming technology in high-frequency mmWave spectrum. The trial reliably achieved speeds of 1 Gbit/s, sufficient to deliver multiple bandwidth intensive UHD and VR streams, and demonstrated what high capacity connectivity could enable for content delivery in the future.
This fixed wireless access trial sites alongside our other 5G and mobile distribution work including our involvement in the 5G-Xcast project, our engagement with 3GPP and our work on Broadcast WiFi, all of which we’re highlighting in this mobile month. These are all part of our work to improve access to BBC services whenever and wherever they happen to be and on any device.
This post is part of the Distribution Core Technologies section