Almost three years after it first began investigating 5G network slicing in the UK, and just weeks after announcing it was the first UK telco to test a 5G standalone (SA) network for public use, Vodafone has revealed that leading UK TV news provider ITN will use a dedicated slice of its public 5G SA network to broadcast the Coronation of King Charles III on 6 May 2023.
Network slicing is regarded as offering exciting potential in broadcasting industry use cases for two reasons. First, network slicing offers a minimum upload speed threshold that can be set to guarantee digitally dense content is uploaded quickly and reliably for live streaming. Second, it potentially removes the risk of network congestion impacting the performance of the broadcast. This is particularly relevant for mass events such as the Coronation and live content contributions from isolated locations.
Vodafone added that as media organisations become increasingly reliant on connectivity networks for outside broadcast, achieving predictable network performance has become essential. It said that while mobile private networks were commonly used, these can require heavy-duty equipment. They are also time-consuming, as advance planning is needed to get permission for a private network.
Essentially, network slicing gives broadcasters a simpler and quicker alternative to deploying their own private mobile network for video transmission with no extra heavy-duty equipment, planning, back-office or spectrum licensing needed, and it can be accessed via a SIM card.
ITN will use the 5GSA network to enable the swift and secure transfer of live broadcast coverage from Westminster to its newsroom in the heart of London, so it can then be shared across the UK and worldwide.
“It feels fitting that 70 years on from the 1953 Coronation, itself a milestone in outside broadcasting, ITN will be delivering coverage to audiences around the world whilst trialling the future of cellular connectivity,” said Jon Roberts, director of television, production and innovation at ITN. “We are proud of our role in broadcasting this historic event, and excited to be blazing a trail, in partnership with Vodafone as we explore the capabilities of 5GSA technology together.”
The partnership between ITN and Vodafone marks the first time in the UK that a public 5G Standalone (5GSA) network has used for a major event broadcast and will make HRH King Charles III’s Coronation the first 5GSA coronation, said Vodafone UK business director Nick Gliddon.
Jon Roberts, ITN
“We are proud to be working with ITN to play our part in helping make this special event happen. Innovation is at the heart of Vodafone, from the first text message to the first mobile call, we have been central in the UK’s adoption of digital technology. Now we are continuing this tradition by being the first to switch on 5GSA for the public to trial and providing a slice of this network for the Coronation,” added Gliddon.
“The possibilities with 5GSA are very exciting. AI [artificial intelligence], autonomous vehicles, holographic calls, IoT [internet of things] and more, 5GSA will turbo-charge the UK’s digital economy and pave the way for our next digital age.”
Capability testing of the 5G SA setup was supported by Vodafone technology partner Ericsson and ITN’s technology partner LiveU. This was carried out at Vodafone and Coventry University’s 5GSA Media Innovation Lab, described as a first of its kind in the UK, which opened earlier in 2023. The lab supports proof of concepts and allows development and testing of end-to-end solutions in a safe and configurable environment. Broadcasters and other media companies, as well as the software development community, have been invited to the lab to develop 5G SA use cases working alongside Vodafone engineers and Coventry University academics.