Media and telco execs came together at the 5G World virtual trade show to discuss ways to monetize 5G with new consumer applications.
Ronan Dunne, head of Verizon's consumer business, said that through the "very judicious placement of 5G capability and mobile edge compute capability in key locations around the country," Verizon hopes to create "distribution hubs" from which people can download high definition immersive content. He used the example of a bus station serving up movies for travelers to download over Verizon's 5G network and enjoy on the bus after leaving the 5G coverage area. Of course that will require 5G phones, but Dunne noted that there are already more than 5.4 million 5G handsets deployed in the US and more than half of those are on the Verizon network.
"This is starting to be real," said Dunne. "We can build out real use cases particularly in the media that are consumer relevant."
Media use cases
Both media executives on the panel endorsed the idea of 5G enabling compelling new media experiences for consumers.
"We have been talking about convergence of media and telco for ages now and with 5G this is now really happening for the first time," said Michael Wagenhofer, managing director for Austrian Broadcasting Services. "We have convergence of devices, convergence of networks, and here 5G is relevant for us because the 5G standard includes broadcasting with industry 3GPP Release 16. … This means you could use your high tower masts to disseminate broadcasting one-to-many, directly to 5G-enabled devices."
David Lynn, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, noted that people have started streaming more media because of the global pandemic and that media companies are capitalizing on the opportunities. "We have an established streaming service in the US with CBS All Access, which we're expanding, and just last week we announced that we're going to be rolling out an international streaming service," he said. The company also offers its Pluto TV free streaming service, which it has been rolling out worldwide. ViacomCBS has a deal with Verizon to put the Pluto TV app on Verizon smartphones, and 5G will make it easier for smartphone users to stream even more content.
Lynn added that when consumers are at home, 5G could enhance their media experiences. "I think 5G will enable us to bring AR and VR to the home cinema," he said.
Verizon's Dunne said that what interests him most about the 5G media opportunity is creating new experiences for users. He explained that as a sports fan he looks forward to delivering 360-degree volumetric video to sports fans, and predicted that eventually teams will sell as many virtual season tickets as real tickets to games. He also highlighted telehealth and AR/VR gaming, saying that the high bandwidth and low latency of 5G create new ways for gamers to interact.
Wagenhofer was the only panel member to voice a cautionary note, reminding the others that even though 5G broadcasting can create efficiencies, the price tag may still be high. "It's definitely great times for customers who experience new forms of media consumption, but the question is how to finance that," he said. "We all know that COVID will make it very hard for all of us to grow our business and we will have to have a close look at the cost point."
— Martha DeGrasse, special to Light Reading. Follow her @mardegrasse