5G presents an excellent opportunity to enhance the OTT viewer experience as the demand for high-quality content and uninterrupted streaming increases, especially since video consumes the bulk of mobile internet traffic today. With 5G's ultra-fast download rates (up to 10 times faster than today's networks) and low latency, video-on-demand consumers can bid farewell to buffered and disrupted streaming. Most broadcasters anticipate that access to content via 5G would surpass traditional methods.
This article will examine how 5G will alter the OTT game for global viewers, the complexities of testing OTT platforms on 5G, and how HeadSpin helps resolve them.
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of cellular network technology. 5G is up to 100 times faster than 4G and offers unprecedented potential for individuals and organizations.
Increasing communication speeds, ultra-low latency, and bandwidth are transforming society, revolutionizing industries, and radically enhancing daily life. Previously futuristic services such as e-health, connected automobiles and traffic systems, and powerful mobile cloud gaming are now available.
It is essentially about bandwidth, and latency. With increased bandwidth, uploading and downloading speeds will increase. It results in enhanced wireless capacity, robust mobile connectivity, and reduced latency in video streaming.
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Benefits of 5G over 4G Network
- Reduction in Latency
While the average human reaction time is around 200 milliseconds, 5G is predicted to send and receive data in less than one millisecond. On the other hand, the current latency of 4G networks is approximately 50 milliseconds. It implies that digital objects will be able to replicate real-time interactions when it comes to video and audio streaming. Comprehensive OTT automation testing becomes crucial here.
4G can achieve maximum speeds of up to only 100 Mbps. However, it rarely exceeds 35 Mbps in reality. 5G is expected to be 100 times faster than 4G, with top potential speeds of approximately 20 Gbps and real-world speeds ranging from 50 Mbps to 3 Gbps. There are three primary flavors of 5G, each with its own speed. The so-called low-band 5G is significantly faster than 4G, with speeds ranging between 50 and 250 Mbps. The 3 Gbps variant of 5G, known as high-band 5G, is the fastest version.
- Improved Cellular Coverage
There are still isolated and rural regions with inadequate 4G coverage around the globe. Outside of a few major cities, 5G coverage is nonexistent due to the technology's infancy. In a few years, 5G is anticipated to attain a comparable degree of coverage as 4G. With multiple implementations (high, medium, and low-band 5G), each with its own speed and bandwidth, 5G will provide video content consumers with a more reliable and consistent experience for indoor and outdoor cellular coverage.
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It is anticipated that 5G would have much more bandwidth or capacity than 4G. This is partly because 5G will utilize the existing spectrum more efficiently. 4G uses a small portion of the spectrum from 600 MHz to 2.5 GHz, whereas 5G is spread into three distinct bands. Each band has its unique frequency range, speed, and specific consumer and business use cases. It indicates that 5G has a significantly greater capacity for OTT streaming.
- Democratization of Video
Once 5G is adopted, enormous processing power and high-speed connectivity that was once exclusive to professional broadcasters will be available to everyone. There will no longer be a requirement to make considerable investments in expensive infrastructure such as satellite trucks, and content distributors will have great flexibility in video production.
- Improve Battery Efficiency
Enhancements in coverage will reduce the computing resources necessary to stream a video. 5G will enable viewers to stay connected to live streams in zones with typically poor service without a massive battery drain.
What has changed in consumers' viewing behavior?
There has been a significant change in consumer behavior over the past few years. Some of the factors that have led to such change are:
Consumers enjoy the flexibility of watching their preferred content at their preferred time and place. It makes watching television while riding a train, waiting at a bus stop, and taking a break from work possible. The proliferation of digital streaming services has fundamentally disrupted the traditional linear TV model, redefining consumer viewing habits and how they consume their preferred content. One of the most notable changes in consumer behavior is that consumers now prefer to view content on the go.
Almost all services enable viewers to select the content, features, and capabilities they are willing to pay for. Effectively, consumers may pay only for the content they want to view and avoid paying for programs and services they do not want or need.
Video streaming services provide recommendations based on viewing profiles. This creates a personalized buffet of content recommendations according to the viewer's interests.
Millennials and Generation Xers are leading the drive towards cable TV alternatives. Sixty-three percent of millennials stream live video, and streaming services enable them to do so.
Although convenience, scalability, and personalization are essential drivers of the trend toward cable TV alternatives, most budget-conscious consumers choose to cut the cord to save money. The trend toward streaming video and live programming presents the content production industry with both problems and opportunities. Those willing to adapt by responding to these changes and riding the trend will enhance their position inside existing markets and expand their reach beyond their current capabilities.
Complexities of Testing OTT platforms in 5G Network
More complex and dynamic environments
Testing methodology for OTT platforms is no more predictable with 4G. In a software-defined architecture, there are 150 nodal network functions, each of which receives software updates at varying frequencies. All of these elements interact in novel and unforeseen ways. There is an abundance of new variables, and the number of items that require testing in OTT platforms has increased tremendously.
Unaccustomed testing scenarios
With operators starting to provide 5G services, it is easy to forget that 3GPP standards are still being developed. There is a list of new features coming in the upcoming releases. Consequently, OTT testing approaches will require adaptation in ways that testing teams do not yet comprehend, as these releases are still finalized.
Not only are the standards new, but so are the solutions and providers that teams work with. The majority of these components have never been tested together. Therefore, OTT platform testing teams must validate compatibility, performance, and security on a much granular level. Moreover, as teams replace monolithic network devices with collections of virtualized nodal functions, they will discover that certain of these functions do not yet exist. Consequently, media testing teams will need to emulate them and the conditions they would encounter when millions of consumers use them at scale.
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Non-applicability of conventional approaches
Operators and vendors are accustomed to using mature, field-proven technologies and techniques to test every component of their networks and solutions. This is no longer true with 5G providing a vast array of new use cases.
The value of this service relies on its ability to be tailored to the client's specific needs. Thus, OTT services will need to test such new multi-vendor nodal functions for thousands of viewers utilizing dozens of devices and apps in dense surroundings. Traditional OTT testing platforms and approaches will not assist here. Even if they could scale, scaling will not be feasible in such new scenarios.
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How does HeadSpin help?
HeadSpin enhances the OTT viewing experience in the 5G network with end-to-end OTT application testing, test data, and messaging services, evaluating device compatibility, and deploying software at the edge.
HeadSpin's comprehensive testing solution optimizes performance and functionality with a variety of use cases and features such as:
- Continuous QoE / QoS assessment framework - RF metrics & more
- Roaming performance client (inbound & outbound) monitoring
- Enhancing user experience & cost reduction with robust digital apps
- Device-OS-Carrier-App compatibility support
- Network throttling using HeadSpin Automation APIs
- Full streaming experience assurance on OTT apps
- Testing, monitoring & analysis of data, voice, and messaging services
- Measuring & monitoring of 5G experiences
- Drive/walk test for local experience – Cellular/Wi-Fi handoff
HeadSpin deploys on-prem appliances on the clients' premises for testing pre-release device models. Its Reverse bridge helps in collecting data from the devices in the field. Using the HeadSpin AI engine, it further analyzes to ensure all the edge devices work as expected on all kinds of OTT, media, telco applications, devices & network combinations.
To provide superior streaming experiences, measuring the network's performance in various use cases is essential. However, measuring real-world performance data has proven to be highly challenging. Instead of network performance data, many telcos, OTT, and media players rely on simulations, which frequently do not reflect the user experience.
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HeadSpin monitors real-world performance, measured by real devices operating on real networks continuously and precisely. These insights enable clients to quickly identify possible issues, analyze them, and take fast action to improve their network, thereby positioning companies to maintain their competitive edge.
HeadSpin also enables the measurement of analog voice performance and compares it with voice over Wi-Fi and LTE. It ensures that voice service remains consistent regardless of the type of connection.
HeadSpin also enables the assessment and quantification of live video performance and quality over 5G. HeadSpin offers video performance measurements based on the metrics such as spatial activity, temporal activity, commercial black, blockiness, block loss, blur, contrast, exposure, flickering, freezing, interlacing, letter-boxing, noise, pillar-boxing, and slicing.
5G networks are still in their infancy, but their impact on media consumption is becoming apparent. Whether it is powering VR immersive experiences in a user's favorite film, allowing them to live stream sporting events online without delay, or just allowing them to watch a series without ever having to buffer again, 5G promises to elevate OTT media viewing to new heights. However, to ensure an unparalleled streaming experience to viewers over 5G networks, the need for comprehensive OTT testing is crucial.
With HeadSpin, OTT, media, and entertainment platform providers can seamlessly monitor and enhance the 5G user experience in a wide range of use cases, features, and functionalities. For more information, check out HeadSpin Telco.
1. Can 5G impact bandwidth?
5G will offer greater bandwidths by increasing the use of spectrum resources, from sub-3 GHz in 4G to 100 GHz and beyond. 5G is capable of operating in both lower bands (e.g., sub-6 GHz) and mmWave (e.g., 24 GHz and above), which will result in high capacity, multi-Gbps throughput, and low latency.
2. Does 5G support 4K streaming?
5G has the potential to enable viewers to enjoy the full 4K experience, with increased and improved bandwidth providing optimal viewing of their preferred content.
3. Does 5G enhance picture quality?
5G speeds could enable instantaneous virtual interaction with high-resolution videos and photos and more complex and effective applications than ever before.
4. What is slicing?
5G network slicing denotes a virtual specification belonging to the same family as software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). One of the most innovative features of 5G architecture is its reliance on 5G network slicing, which allows operators to provide a portion of their network for specific client use cases, including smart homes, Internet of Things (IoT) factories, and connected automobiles, and smart grids.
Every use case has a unique set of optimized network resources and topologies via network slicing. These specified resources and network topologies cover specific SLA-specified parameters, such as connectivity, speed, and capacity, that satisfy the devices' requirements.