With network operators seeking ways to offer enhanced services that meet real customer needs using 5G solutions, ZTE has been showcasing its 5G Smart Stadium Live Broadcasting Solution, which has already demonstrated the innovative power that cutting edge technology deployments can enable in the most demanding service delivery environments.
Here, Dr. Lu Wei, Chief Technology Innovation Officer, Head of 5G Video at ZTE Corporation, answers some of the key questions about the solution and how it can benefit communications service providers and their customers.
What are the key end-to-end technology elements that comprise ZTE's Smart Stadium Live Broadcasting Solution?
ZTE's 5G Live TV solution features three key technologies: 5G eMBB ultra-high bandwidth, MEC vCDN, and real-time transcoding for multi-channel UHD videos. By virtue of ultra-low latency and free viewpoint (360-degree view), it delivers a unique user experience.
Video services are provided through 5G networks in dense places. ZTE's leading 5G QCELL solution is adopted for network coverage, deeply optimizing and testing the network. The high bandwidth of 5G eMBB slices is fully reflected. As for video capture, high-quality 4K live broadcast signals are sent back via 5G CPE, showing the high bandwidth feature of 5G. As for user experience, services are distributed through the 5G network and displayed on 5G smartphones.
Backed up with MEC, the content generated on the network edge is processed locally and distributed. During live broadcast of games, the source-end device directly uploads the captured multi-angle content to the MEC server on the network edge. The MEC server responds to the users' requests for watching HD live videos from different angles, and then offloads the video traffic to the local network. The MEC service can effectively reduce the backhaul bandwidth consumption and service access latency, improve service experience, and achieve on-site end-to-end latency less than one second.
Real-time stitching integrating with frame alignment can achieve fast stitching and encoding. Together with the speedy response of MEC CDN and 5G technologies, the end-to-end latency from video capture to video playing on terminals is greatly optimized. In addition, by virtue of ZTE Player, which restores images by resolving stitched model, as well as frame-level synchronization of multiple live channels, a smooth viewing experience is delivered with no delay for view switching.
Could this same service be delivered without using 5G technology? What is the importance of the 5G elements?
For large events such as sporting events and live concerts, the traditional method is to collect signals through cables. The network deployment is difficult, camera positioning is not flexible, and costs are relatively high. When a 4G network is deployed, the user plane is deployed centralized from an architectural point of view. The MEC deployed with the core network is usually located in the capital city of a province—If the MEC is too far away from the stadium, there will be too many network hops, causing poor experience.
However, the adoption of 5G technology can solve all the above-mentioned problems. Geographic location is not restricted, camera deployment is flexible, high uplink bandwidth and low latency can be guaranteed, and the audience can watch games from more perspectives. Meanwhile, the user plane has become decentralized and moved to the edge together with MEC so that data can be processed locally and latency can be reduced greatly.
As network and video technologies develop in the future, some sporting events will prefer to adopt multi-angle live broadcast to provide the audience with more choices of viewing perspectives. In addition, exploration of AI-enabled video recognition and new applications, such as panoramic view and VR views, continues and some will become available. 5G networks, featuring high bandwidth and low latency, will further promote the development of such innovative services to achieve higher definition, higher concurrency, and a more diversified and immersive experience.
What advantages will this bring to broadcasters and stadium owners? And how does this impact the end user/viewer experience?
ZTE's solution can bring more traffic to broadcasters and stadium owners, and this traffic can be monetized in many ways. We set up an interactive advertizing zone to deliver diversified ads and help improve the conversion rate. We also provide VIP users with personalized viewing angles and use drones to track superstars to improve people's willingness to pay for a VIP subscription. In addition, we cooperate with business owners located near stadiums to promote related goods and boost the fan economy. 5G Live TV solution creates a brand new game-watching experience, achieving customization and personalization. Users can select different viewing angles on the app to see multi-angle views, and swipe on the screen to zoom in or out of a view in real time so as to capture details. For professional fans, we customize the free viewpoint (360-degree view) function for them to get a full view of games.
5G Live TV solution creates a win-win situation. Operators, broadcasters and stadium owners can find new revenue growth drivers. The audience can enjoy a new and immersive game-watching experience.
Has this solution been used in a commercial environment?
The 5G Live TV solution has been commercially used at the 2nd National Youth Games of China in August 2019. ZTE's leading 5G QCELL solution was adopted for network coverage of the main stadium. Deep network optimization and testing were implemented. The high bandwidth, low latency, and massive connectivity features of 5G were fully reflected. We deployed many cameras to send back high-quality 4K live broadcast signals through 5G CPE, showing the high bandwidth feature of 5G. As for user experience, services are distributed through the 5G network and displayed on 5G smartphones.
The application of 5G Live TV solution in the 2nd National Youth Games sets a great example for the future live broadcast of such events. For the first time in the industry, ZTE provides services based on MEC through the 5G network to build end-to-end ultra-HD video production and broadcast capabilities. Focusing on sporting events, ZTE provides end users with plug-and-play services, delivering a new, ultra-HD and immersive viewing experience.