Broadcast was considered an integral part of 5G systems from the very beginning. Point-to-multipoint (PTM) transmissions that simultaneously transmit data from one point to many others are key technical components for the new 5G radio access and core networks. However, despite the unprecedented research and standardisation efforts invested in 5G worldwide, PTM has received very little attention.
Broadcast and multicast PTM capabilities for 5G
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a standards organisation that develops protocols for mobile telephony, decided to prioritise work in other areas for the first 2 releases of 5G (15 and 16). “The lack of PTM characteristics in the 5G development process may imply a future limitation of point-to-point (PTP) network infrastructures by not providing a cost-effective and scalable delivery solution,” says David Gomez-Barquero, coordinator of the EU-funded 5G-Xcast project. “This will lead to inefficient service provisioning and utilisation of the network and spectrum resources when distributing the same data to multiple users and devices.” PTM transmissions can provide more efficient delivery compared to PTP whenever a service or application requires the same data to be delivered to multiple user equipment at the same time. “This is why PTM is considered an essential feature for 5G applications in the media and entertainment, automotive, Internet of things and public warning sectors,” explains Gomez-Barquero. “In short, the introduction of PTM capabilities in 5G will increase the delivery efficiency of the same content to multiple users or devices.”
Forward-looking 5G network architecture for large-scale immersive media delivery
The 5G-Xcast team designed a solid technical solution for 5G PTM, including air interface, radio access network architecture and a core network that’s fully consistent with the Release 15 5G specifications. It has also contributed to the standardisation process of the long-term evolution-based 5G broadcast solution in 3GPP’s Release 16. “The work done during the project will serve as a reference point for the informative and normative work under 3GPP,” adds Gomez-Barquero. 5G-Xcast has incorporated PTM capabilities into 5G as built-in delivery features, integrating PTP and PTM modes under one common framework, and enabling a dynamic use of PTM to maximise network and spectrum efficiency. “This approach will open the door to completely new levels of network management and cost-efficient delivery,” says Gomez-Barquero. The 5G converged network architecture combines fixed, mobile and terrestrial networks to dynamically and seamlessly switch between unicast, multicast and broadcast modes, or to use them in parallel. “5G-Xcast provides efficient, scalable and sustainable solutions for large-scale distribution of media services that are fully consistent with the 5G specifications, contributing to the definition of 5G and its standardisation in 3GPP,” concludes Gomez-Barquero. “It will facilitate seamless integration of fixed, mobile and broadcast networks into a unified heterogeneous and flexible 5G infrastructure.” 5G-Xcast should also meet the future requirements of the European content creation sector and its audiences.
5G-Xcast, 5G, PTM, media, 3GPP, network architecture, PTP