How 5G will profoundly transform digital audio
5G technology will propel all connected devices into the era of broadband connectivity. The benefits for digital audio are revolutionary – for radio, podcasting and advertisers alike.
Quick reminder – what is 5G exactly?
5G is the latest generation of mobile telephony standards. It succeeds 4G LTE. Its advantages are an increase in the number of potential simultaneous connections and very short latency times. This is because 5G can support 10 times more devices per square kilometre than 4G – up to one million terminals.
For Lucia Gonzalez, head of the audio and video division of Labelium Group, 5G will strengthen the role of video and audio in digital marketing strategies: “More powerful smartphones, the surge in connected devices and network speeds will improve the reach of campaigns and their ability to generate engagement and, doubtlessly, conversion. Advertising that dominates the entire bandwidth will be a thing of the past.”
It’s worth knowing that many countries already have 5G networks, including Germany, South Korea, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland.
Increased listening comfort, optimal receptivity
The increase in bitrates promised by 5G will support a growing phenomenon: the quality of broadcasting will improve for most users, thanks to connections allowing high-resolution sound to supplant compressed formats (MP3, MP4, AAC). This product niche, in which just a handful of players (Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer) have been positioned, will now reach a much wider target since Amazon’s arrival on the lossless music scene. This will be a first since music streaming took over from CDs.
Enhanced listening quality will increase the intimate relationship between the listener and the programme broadcast, often via headphones, confirms Dan Morales, CIO of Universal Music Group in a forum run by American operator T-Mobile: “After years of compressed files and music streams, many of us have become accustomed to ‘acceptable’ quality, unlike with CDs or vinyl albums. Today, we have the ability to acquire more complex, richly detailed sound, for example on your phone when you are walking your dog. In this sense, the future of 5G, combined with advances in audio technology, is going to change everything.”
Radio, podcasts – real-time access to audio content becomes the norm
4G has enabled the smartphone to become the leading device for podcasting. Spain is a pioneer in this field, with a monthly podcast listening rate reaching 53% of the population via mobile, just ahead of Korea (39%), Ireland (37%) and the United States (35%).
5G – the promise of a better ratio between speed and latency – will allow this trend to become even more prevalent. Unlimited packages will make the use of music streaming services or music streams more natural, just as with digital radio.
According to Milford Smith, an engineer with SKGI Broadcast Engineering Consultants, broadcasters need to see 5G as a huge broadband pipe in which broadcast capacity is limited only by their imagination: “The delivery of streaming content will be even more ubiquitous, faster and with significantly increased metadata potential.”
Broadcasters have everything to gain from this, confirms Bert Goldman, President of Goldman Engineering Management, who believes that radio executives will need to improve and expand their streaming footprint, because “the 5G infrastructure will mean a more personal experience for listeners and radio is in a unique position to leverage its existing resources to compete in this new environment.”
5G Broadcast, the future of DVB and DAB+
One of the most promising aspects of 5G technology in the field of multimedia broadcasting is so-called 5G Broadcast, which will considerably improve the speeds and coverage of old radio and TV broadcast sites by using a very high-speed 100% downlink.
5G Broadcast supports SFN (isofrequency) networks, which enable operation on a single frequency in a given region, at high speed. This technology is particularly suitable for automotive applications, as well as for radio and TV broadcasting. Conclusive tests have already been carried out in Germany by two Bavarian stations, as well as by the BBC on a British island to test live streaming.
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