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5 Questions about 5G

By Debra Kaufman

The next-generation 5G network is impossible to ignore, but still a mystery to many. That’s why we posed five questions about 5G to three industry experts: Michael Cioni, Panavision/Light Iron senior vice president of innovation; Jim DeFilippis, Technology Made Simple chief executive; and Chuck Parker, Sohonet chairman/chief executive. Here’s what they had to say.

What’s the first way you anticipate 5G impacting your life?

Parker: On a personal level, probably 12 to 18 months from now, new devices will be able to harness the density at major event locations like a Dodgers’ game. Professionally, it’s still hard to see when there will be enough deployed density for coverage except in dense urban areas.

DeFilippis: The low hanging fruit is wireless TV.

Cioni:  With each generational stage of network bandwidth and graduated infrastructure, new doors of digital collaboration are opened. 5G opens a new door which will lead to the ability to move people through the Internet. 5G is the generational upgrade we need to transition from virtualizing assets to virtualizing ourselves.


Will 5G be backwards compatible with 4G?

Cioni: Each generational upgrade is backwards compatible. The global 5G rollout will take several years and device manufacturers always support legacy protocols in order to keep customers connected. Customers won’t notice the transition, but will likely become accustomed to the benefits of 5G fairly quickly.

Parker: The spec is not. Many devices will very likely have two radios that can manage both.

DeFilippis: Devices will support both and complement each other.


Will 5G impact the media & entertainment business? How and how soon?

Parker: The challenge presented by 5G with regard to the production and post production side of our industry is the range – it’s very limited compared to 4G — and required backhaul. 5G is serviced by small, inexpensive antennae, but backhaul through fiber is required (or through a meshed network approach, which reduces overall capacity).  Likely deployment scenarios would be “on every lamp post” in dense urban areas or other fixed locations like stadiums. This would be good for on-location productions in those scenarios. It is also possible that production studios will deploy the infrastructure, but in that scenario, it would be replacing production-grade Wi-Fi, which has similar range and backhaul requirements.

DeFilippis: There is some hype with regard to production, but the impact will be on the delivery of content to consumers.

Cioni: Every industry will experience the impact of having a connection 20 times faster than current 4G bandwidth. In addition to transfer speeds, the media and entertainment industry will see several other benefits when 5G becomes more prevalent: increased quality of any image being transmitted (higher quality codecs); collaboration between people in different departments and in different regions; real-time access to all footage, everywhere, all at once; ultra high quality instant previs (no proxy previs); and integration with machine learning which will supercharge normal cloud tasks.


What’s the most important thing I need to know about 5G?

DeFilippis: It will take time to roll out. And as the number of customers increase the bandwidth per customer will decrease.

Cioni: 5G will eliminate local base station connections (such as Wi-Fi and towers) and be fed from satellite technology. This means everyone will be online, all the time, anywhere in the world. More than 10,000 satellites will circle the globe in low orbit and connect billions of people on an ultra-high speed network. Connecting the world online like this will have dramatic implications for how the Internet itself will change, and how it will change us.

Parker: For consumers, the rollout will take longer than expected, but will enable a much better IoT (Internet of Things) experience.  For production, it is harder to see how it will be much better than production-grade Wi-Fi for fixed sound stage locations with the exception of the ability to better deal with dead zones created by physical barriers.


5G: Hype or next big thing?

DeFilippis: 5G is an evolution, with many new technologies. Not all will be ready on Day 1.

Parker:  This technology, like many before it, will follow the Gartner Hype Cycle.  We are currently in the “peak of inflated expectations” stage, buoyed by the wireless telco’s investment in marketing. However, as the rollouts drag out and the limitations come to light, we will enter the “trough of disillusionment” (probably 2020-2021), and then we will collectively find business cases where the investment delivers on the promise and we will push up the “slope of enlightenment” (probably 2022-2025).

Cioni: 5G is unequivocally the next big thing!  Hollywood loves to communicate, loves to shoot in remote locations, thrives on collaboration, loves encryption, and loves high quality images.  All of these core virtues required to make a film or series are within the DNA of 5G.


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