5G brings optimism and concern to NAB Show 2019

The one change 5G has unquestionably brought to the telecom business so far has been a boom in panels discussing 5G’s prospects. The upcoming NAB Show should fit right into that pattern, with a lineup of 5G-focused sessions that will be topped by a keynote session featuring executives from Intel, Samsung and network-infrastructure vendor Crown Castle.

The picture likely to emerge from those conversations—and the 5G exhibits covering such topics as edge computing and mobile augmented- and virtual-reality applications that will fill a nontrivial chunk of the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center—should be a mix of optimism and concern.

Two industry analysts offered contrasting, sometimes conflicting suggestions about 5G developments to watch at the show and afterward.

“Cloud games and VR are going to be two more consumer focused services for 5G,” emailed Nitesh Patel, director of wireless media strategies at Strategy Analytics. He pointed to such cloud-gaming ventures as Hatch’s deal with Sprint and the cloud VR offerings of LG U+ in Korea.

“I think that there is going to be a big push for volumetric content and media, with Fox Sports and Intel touting some of the advancements they have made in volumetric capture and production for coverage of live sports events,” emailed Leonard Lee, managing director of Next Curve.

But he cautioned that live 3D video panoramas remained “a nascent media format” that would need considerable work before viewers are taking in live volumetric coverage of a football game in a VR headset.

Further, he added, VR remains an indoor phenomenon while outdoors, “people simply don’t want to wear a bulky AR headset or glasses that can run for only five hours.”

But if 5G can provide a fast residential broadband connection free of data caps—an easier thing for a network to deliver in one spot than consistent bandwidth across a wide area—that could be something else entirely.

Patel suggested looking out for bundling deals from 5G home broadband services along the lines of T-Mobile’s suggestion that it will pin its forthcoming streaming TV service to the 5G network it’s building out.

“Bundling is a powerful distribution channel for OTT services,” he said. “Our research shows that around 20% of paid subscriptions can come from bundling via service providers."

In the meantime, there’s the market on display throughout NAB: all the content companies that need to get video to or from one place to another.

That may represent one of the easier use cases for 5G, as Patel summed up: “broadcast and film companies using 5G for video contribution and backhaul, where fiber isn’t available or where the cost of deploying satellite link is too cost prohibitive.”

Until the 5G promise arrives there is going to be a lot of distributed computing innovation that is going to happen in the meantime. Near-term, that is what is going to be exciting while the carriers figure out how to get a return on their 5G investments over the next few years.