China Mobile & Huawei Launch First Ever Live 4K Stream Over A 5G Network
Stephan Jukic – May 15, 2019
While live 4K ultra HD broadcasting of content over the air on public and cable TV networks is still barely a thing, it is at least making some headway through the newest in cellular network technology now. This has finally shown to be possible through a recent experimental test event conducted by China Mobile and Huawei working together.
The experiment in live 4K streaming is what both companies claim to be the first ever live stream of 4K video over a 5G dual-band convergent network. It was conducted in Beijing with additional help from China Central Television (CCTV).
Not only does this test expand the scope of channels and devices that 4K video can be transmitted through, it also creates another major advance in the development of 5G networks for commercial use, according to Huawei.
The 4K video transmission had a typical UHD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels (as opposed to cinematic 4K at 4096 x 2160 pixels) and was beamed out across the test 5G network at 50 fps. No mention is made of whether or not this test broadcast included HDR mastering but the additional data for wide color gamut and expanded dynamic range would have made little bandwidth difference in any case.
4K video transmission by any means is highly data intensive and has so far only been achieved successfully on a consumer market scale through OTT (over the top) internet channels such as smart TV apps and via satellite broadcasts from services like DirecTV and Dish. Other data transmission means have not yet pulled this same feat off and the bandwidth necessary for 4K video expands even further in the case of live video feeds like the one sent over 5G through this China Mobile/Huawei experiment.
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Furthermore, sending 4K ultra HD broadcasts through existing 4G cellular networks is essentially impossible due to the amount of data required even after intense H.265 compression of the signal. However, 5G offers up to 100 times more bandwidth than 4G and thus is the first ever cellular network technology capable of what ultra HD video either in live or canned form would require.
The joint Huawei/China Mobile test that was recently conducted involved the transmission of a live 4K video feed through the two companies high bandwidth 5G network and the transmission route for the stream passed through the Beijing Mobile Building in to a second building run by CCTV and covered by multiple 5G nodes.
What the test confirmed most effectively is that a 5G network can indeed support 4K UHD content streams at bandwidth rates of 40 to 60Mbps or more in a consumer mobile content scenario. The video feed, which was sent to the CCTV headquarters via 2.6GHz and 4.9GHz frequency bands, showed a smooth and consistently stable video quality throughout the test according to the participating companies.
Despite all of this, the widespread proliferation of consumer 5G networks in which consumers can easily and fairly cheaply access enough mobile bandwidth to stream movies or sportscasts in 4K UHD is still years away from going global. Companies in several major markets are working on related projects but on a timeline that extends to years.
For now, most mobile phone users and fans of UHD entertainment will have to stay content with live or canned 4K content being delivered strictly via WiFi connections. 4K UHD TV owners can choose between this and satellite 4K broadcasts as a second option with a growing selection of content choices and operators.