Though its December 2018 launch of 5G services was focused on enterprises rather than consumers, top South Korean wireless carrier SK Telecom used New Year’s Day as an opportunity to demonstrate how 5G will influence both markets in 2019. Starting at midnight on January 1, the carrier offered a live 11-minute broadcast of the country’s largest New Year’s celebration in Seoul, relying on ultra-low latency livestreams over its 5G network for the footage.
While the “5G” value of the broadcast might seem subtle to average users, it’s actually more important than it initially appears. SK Telecom used 5G mobile routers and base stations to stream multiple live videos from smartphones running its T Live Caster app, delivering wireless latency comparable to a wired connection. Viewers were able to see “live” footage streamed with an under one-second delay, demonstrating how 5G smartphones will empower instant field reporting,
For the New Year’s broadcast, SK Telecom used high-definition rather than ultra high-definition footage and relied upon broadcaster XtvN’s transmission system to reach cable and IPTV viewers. The carrier says it will upgrade T Live Caster to 4K UHD quality and expand its streaming to reach personal broadcasting platforms later this year. SK Telecom is also working with DJI to stream drone-captured video footage over its 5G network, enabling both phone and drone users to become instant sources of broadcast video content.
“With today’s successful live TV broadcasting over commercial 5G network, SK Telecom ushers in a new era of 5G-based media services,” said SK Telecom SVP Choi Nak-hoon. “In this new era, individual creators will be able to provide high-quality live broadcast anytime, anywhere, via 5G smartphones.”
The current stumbling block is, of course, actual 5G smartphones. While Samsung’s carrier partners have promised multiple options in 2019, and other device makers are readying phones for CES and Mobile World Congress unveilings, concrete details — including pricing and release dates — remain uncertain. Motorola’s Moto Z3 was announced last August as the first 5G upgradeable smartphone, but its 5G Moto Mod attachment still doesn’t have a price or scheduled release date.