Having been successfully deployed for key live events and reality shows, 5G production has proven its mettle for the big stage. John Maxwell Hobbs explores how its wider adoption is set to transform the broadcasting landscape.

The advent of using standalone 5G networks in television production heralds a transformative era in broadcasting. This evolution, exemplified in its use in both the coronation of King Charles III and the innovative live production of Big Brother Brasil, embodies a shift towards a more accessible and dynamic approach to production. The integration of 5G technology not only underscores a technological leap but also catalyses the democratization of the broadcasting industry, paving the way for a future unbound by the constraints of traditional broadcasting methodologies.


As part of Operation Unicorn, an innovate 5G ’Network in a box’ solution was used in the live broadcast production by QTV

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“This is not a proof of concept - this is ready and being used in prime time,” says Malcolm Brew, Senior Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the University of Strathclyde, and Lead Technology Consultant with Strathclyde spin-out company Neutral Wireless, affirming the operational readiness of 5G for mainstream broadcasting. Brew’s enthusiasm for the capabilities of 5G - ranging from enhancing live sports coverage to making broadcasting more accessible - speaks volumes about the seismic shifts underway in the industry.

5G production comes of age

The rapid evolution of 5G technology from its nascent, experimental stages to playing a significant role in several productions marks a significant industry transformation. Initially, the foray into 5G production began modestly, with a demonstration using just five cameras at IBC 2022. This humble beginning quickly escalated to a pivotal role in Operation Unicorn, capturing Queen Elizabeth II’s final departure from Scotland - an event that not only tested the capabilities of 5G but also potentially set records for viewership, with the iconic image of the Queen’s plane being broadcast to a global audience that numbered in the billions.

Reflecting on this rapid progression, Brew highlights the extraordinarily rapid development of 5G production capabilities: “We’ve witnessed a transition from using one or two cameras to deploying 60 cameras for landmark events.” This statement underscores the dramatic shift in the broadcasting landscape, where 5G has gone from a proof-of-concept to potentially becoming an essential tool in covering major events. This shift demonstrates 5G’s robust capacity to meet diverse broadcasting demands, offering scalability and efficiency previously unattainable.

Case studies: A King’s Coronation, and Big Brother

As described in the IBC2023 Tech Paper of the Year, the coronation of King Charles III served as a pivotal moment for the broadcasting industry, showcasing the practical application of 5G Standalone Non-Public Networks (S-NPNs) in a live, large-scale event. This event highlighted the advancements in 5G technology, demonstrating its capability to deliver high-quality, reliable live coverage, even in the most demanding scenarios.

BBC News identified a need to provide continuous mobile coverage along part of the procession route between Admiralty Arch and Buckingham Palace. To ensure continuous and uninterrupted coverage along the route, the BBC employed a 5G S-NPN network dedicated to the event, leveraging a new spectrum licensed by Ofcom in the 3.8-4.2 GHz range. The network enabled the seamless integration of modern IP workflows, significantly enhancing broadcast efficiency and quality.

Commenting on the coronation event, Brew states, “Employing 5G technology for the coronation was not just about showcasing innovation; it was about ensuring that we could share this historic moment with the world, without compromise.” This approach reduced the reliance on traditional broadcasting setups, offering an unprecedented level of flexibility and efficiency.

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The success of the 5G network during the coronation demonstrated its ability to support live broadcasting at an immense scale. Over 60 devices accessed the network, delivering more than 54.4 GB of uplink video data. “The coronation event underscored the unmatched scalability and adaptability of 5G, making it a game-changer for live event broadcasting,” adds Brew.

The application of 5G in Big Brother Brasil further exemplified this approach, as presented in another IBC2023 Technical Paper. Big Brother Brasil has been presented by Globo TV for nearly two decades. The programme utilises more than 50 cameras to ensure continuous, comprehensive coverage. The traditional setup required a complex infrastructure of cabling leading to high operating costs. 5G presented an opportunity to revolutionize this setup by introducing mobility, reducing physical installations, and enabling remote production capabilities.


The outside broadcast used as part of Operation Unicorn was also supported by ‘Open Broadcast Systems’ and ‘Zixi’

For Big Brother Brasil, the use of 5G was critical in transmitting high-quality, low-latency video 24 hours a day for the 100-day duration of the program. The implementation of network slicing within the 5G infrastructure was pivotal, dedicating specific network resources to the reality show studio, thereby ensuring reliability and quality of service. This approach reserved network resources and guaranteed secure data transmission, a necessity for the continuous operation of the reality show.

The project’s success hinged on the deployment of a dedicated 5G S-NPN, which facilitated remote camera control and significantly reduced the reliance on video cables. Two cameras equipped with the SRT protocol and HEVC codec transmitted 40Mbps each, achieving an 80Mbps upload bandwidth with only six frames of glass-to-glass delay. This high video quality and low delay allowed for the seamless integration of 5G connected cameras alongside traditional wired cameras, setting a new standard for live production efficiency and quality.

Democratising the broadcasting landscape

Perhaps the most profound impact of 5G is its democratising effect on the broadcasting industry. By eliminating the high barriers to entry traditionally associated with live outside broadcasting, 5G networks have paved the way for smaller productions and independent creators to share their content on a global stage. Brew confirms, “5G technology will democratise live outside broadcasting, making it accessible to smaller productions and individuals.”

Brew emphasises the way that 5G networks are revolutionizing the coverage of low-budget events, offering production capabilities previously deemed unattainable for smaller-scale sports and activities. He highlights the accessibility and efficiency 5G brings to broadcasting, stating, “I can put an iPhone 15 Pro in someone’s hand, and they’ve got a good idea how to use that.” This democratisation of broadcasting technology enables coverage from “the bottom up,” making it feasible to capture events that traditionally would not be broadcast. “You can’t go to that football pitch, you can’t cover that game,” he says. “Economically, it’s too big, it’s carbon filthy, it takes you too long to rig. With 5G and high-quality consumer-grade cameras we can literally pop up and almost have the same production value.” This approach further reduces barriers to entry for covering lesser-known sports and events, highlighting 5G’s capacity to “get it into the hands of people who thought they could never do a live outside broadcast.”

This vision of 5G-enabled broadcasting democratizes media production, providing a platform for previously overlooked events and sports, thereby enriching the diversity of content available to audiences.

Hybrid approach

Brew highlights the pivotal role of 5G in catalysing the transition towards IP-based video production, while integrating with the established norms of traditional SDI workflows. “5G supplements traditional broadcasting, it doesn’t replace it,” he says. “It introduces flexibility and efficiency previously unattainable.” This transition signifies a move towards more adaptable and efficient production methods, enabled by the seamless connectivity and high bandwidth capabilities of 5G networks.

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The concept of leveraging hybrid networks - combining the strengths of both private and public networks - emerges as a compelling solution to enhance broadcasting capabilities. Brew provides a forward-looking perspective, suggesting, “Using private and public networks for broadcasting highlights the benefits of a hybrid approach. 5G enables wireless UHD, bi-directional full camera control, augmenting productions, and reducing costs.” This innovative approach promises not only to elevate production quality but also to make high-end broadcasting more economically feasible.

Envisioning a 5G-powered future

The integration of 5G technology into the broadcasting sector marks a pivotal shift, promising a future where broadcasting is more inclusive, dynamic, and immersive. The coverage of landmark events like the coronation of King Charles III and the production of Big Brother Brasil exemplify the transformative potential of 5G, offering unparalleled flexibility, efficiency, and quality in wireless production. “As we move forward, 5G will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the future of broadcasting, making it more accessible and engaging for creators and audiences alike,” Brew concludes.


The Neutral Wireless pop-up 5G SA network used in Operation Unicorn, deployed by QTV, was trailled and proven viable for broadcast use by IBC’s Accelerator Media Innovation Programme

Addressing the scepticism that initially surrounded 5G’s applicability for broadcasting, Brew acknowledges the industry’s journey from doubt to acceptance. “There were naysayers, but they’re being won over as we demonstrate the capabilities of 5G in live production settings.” This evolving perception underlines the tangible benefits of 5G and the growing confidence in its role within the broadcasting ecosystem.

Brew further explores the creative freedoms unlocked by 5G, noting, “5G opens up new possibilities for storytelling, allowing us to capture and broadcast from angles and locations previously unthinkable.” This freedom to innovate within content creation sets the stage for more dynamic and immersive viewing experiences, pushing the boundaries of traditional broadcasting.

Moreover, Brew projects a future where technological disparities between large and small-scale productions blur, thanks to the levelling influence of 5G. “The technology levels the playing field, enabling smaller teams to produce content with the quality and scale that was once the exclusive domain of major broadcasters.” This egalitarian perspective heralds a more inclusive broadcasting landscape, enriched by a diversity of voices and stories.

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