By Mark Barrett
The way we consume video is changing, driven by the growing popularity of streaming and OTT services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. By 2022, video will account for 82% of IP traffic, according to Cisco. High definition is out and ultra-high definition is in. With this, comes a big shift in the way we deliver connectivity – as people will often have multiple video streams running in their home, with a resulting data rate demand of at least 100 Mbps.
In 2019, we’re going to see two big changes for video streaming which are going to impact everyone from telecoms operators and manufacturers to automotive brands and hospitals. The first is the rise of fibre to the home and the second is the emergence of 8K resolution video streaming. This is the next step in high definition video resolution along the road from HD (2k), Ultra HD (4k) and onto 8k. I’m going to take a look at both to find out how video streaming technology will develop, what the impact will be on society and how connectivity is going to need to adapt to fit our changing needs.
More Fibre, more coverage?
The Government has pledged to deliver full-fibre broadband to the whole of the UK by 2033, as part of their strategy to improve national broadband coverage. Currently less than 5% of UK homes have full fibre connectivity, which is extremely low if compared with Portugal’s 89% and Spain’s 71%.
It is true that fibre-performance connectivity would resolve many of the issues around growing demand for high-quality video streaming from anywhere. The problem is that it’s just so complicated and costly to install due to the need to obtain planning permission from the local authority, location or installation of ducts to run the fibre along and, last but certainly least, to dig up the area to install the fibre ducts – typically causing disruption to local homes and businesses.
However, it may actually be possible to beat the Government’s connectivity target of 2033 if we combine fibre implementation with gigabit grade fixed wireless access (FWA) using millimetre wave wireless spectrum. This mmWave FWA technology provides multi-gigabit, fibre-grade performance and can be used in last-mile fibre implementation to avoid the need to dig up roads. A quicker, less costly roll-out would be a positive step towards delivering full multi-gigabit coverage for the UK and would help the country keep pace with customer demands for increased content and higher resolution.
Prepare for 8K Video Streaming
2018 saw the first 8K televisions hit the market. This year, we will be seeing huge growth in this area. By 2020, 2.1 million 8K TV units are expected to be shipped, rising to 3.3 million by 2022.
In terms of 8K video streaming, the applications, predictably, are endless. Here are just a few worth mentioning:
In manufacturing, video streaming will be applied to industrial inspections, with 8K cameras in the factory relaying data back to multiple control points.
Connectivity trials currently taking place such as AutoAir, which Blu Wireless and McLaren have been working on (amongst other key partners like Airspan), will reap results set to transform automotive connectivity. We have already demonstrated snippets of HD and 4K video at 1Gbps from car to trackside using mmWave technology.
For streaming video at home, 8K video will require mmWave uncompressed connectivity to keep up with consumer demand to “ditch the wire” between the video set top box and the wall-mounted flat screen display, providing a cleaner more aesthetic product.
The shift towards telehealth will enable at-distance diagnostics, so that health and social care providers can reduce time spent travelling between hospitals and homes and ultimately help more patients. mmWave-powered, low-latency video streaming is a key part of the technology behind telehealth innovation and is currently being trialled in Liverpool hospitals.
What are the barriers to adoption?
Here we need to differentiation between two general use cases:
- Delivering multiple compressed UHD video streams over Fixed Wireless Access from OTT services such as Netflix. A typical per user rate of 100-300 Mbps per home is seen as acceptable to support 4-8 parallel UHD (4K) resolution rates. Cost-effective mmWave technology can already support this demand with one FWA access point delivering up to 3 Gbps shared on a P2MP (point-to-multipoint) basis with up to 8 customer premises.
- Delivering uncompressed low latency video from a set top box to a high resolution (8K) display. Typically, around 30 Gbps per uncompressed video connection is required to support such an 8K resolution video stream. This is one of the key reasons we have been developing our next generation HYDRA2.X technology – to support 8K video streaming and to target the demanding use cases set out by the IEEE in their 802.11ay standard.
How will technology help manufacturers overcome these barriers?
Technologies which can achieve the technical requirements for video streaming of multi-gigabit, low-latency connectivity, such as mmWave, are incredibly difficult to develop.
As the use cases for video streaming multiply, cross-industry collaboration will become all the more important, as chips will be needed that can be reconfigured and repurposed for many different industry applications to improve cost efficiency. In future, we will be seeing more partnerships between mmWave specialists, radio technology vendors, manufacturers and the industry giants leading digital transformation in their respective sectors. These partnerships will be fundamental to achieving universal access to high-quality video streaming – and could well see the UK beat its 2033 deadline.
Blu Wireless are pioneers of intelligent multi-Gbit mmWave wireless communications systems, enabling fast, reliable and cost-effective wireless connectivity. Find out more about how our technology is powering FWA Broadband, High-Speed Transport and 8K Video, VR and AR applications.