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5G TV and Radio: Next Gen broadcasting tests start soon

High up on the edge of the Alps, tests of the next generation of digital terrestrial broadcasting are weeks away from starting.

Bavaria's public service broadcaster BR has been officially assigned frequencies for the world's first "high tower, high power" 5G FeMBMS* transmitter, located on the 1828 metre high Wendelstein mountain, with a transmission power of 100kW ERP.

The frequency allocation (UHF channel 56) comes into effect on the 1st October 2018, and was assigned to the broadcaster by Germany's Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency), with the tests launching during the course of the autumn.

Once on-air, the tests will allow the portable and mobile reception of test signals in southern Bavaria and Munich.

Since this is a test operation, there aren't yet any devices available to the public that can access these signals.

In the future, with this technology, broadcasting services aimed at large numbers of users can be widely distributed at low cost and received, for example, with smartphones, but possibly also with classic radio and television sets.

5G FeMBMS is a designated successor to today's digital terrestrial broadcasting technologies such as DVB-T2 and DAB +, but also for today's form of internet radio and Web TV streaming. The advantage is the ability of advertising and content providers to broadcast advertising and content in a personalised way.

The BR and its project partners are continuing their expansion of the high tower, high power test network with further test sites this year and next. The test field significantly promotes the further technical development in this area and prepares for a link between broadcasting and mobile radio (unicast). Partners include O2 owner Telefonica.

The goal is for the user to be able to use the advantages of both transmission mechanisms - broadcast and unicast - on a single terminal comprehensively, continuously and without further restrictions for both radio and television. With the FeMBMS broadcasting mode, content aimed at mass audiences can be distributed cheaply at the same time over very large radio cells with a radius of up to more than 60 km.

The aim of the research is to enable the efficient broadcasting of radio signals in the future, combined with attractive services in the 5G network of the future. The beginning of the broadcasts on the transmitter Wendelstein and a further BR transmitter in Munich is intended for autumn 2018. By the spring of 2019, the development of receiving components is planned. In addition, theoretical preliminary investigations and simulations will take place. 

The research is part of the "5G TODAY" project, which has been awarded funding over a period of 28 months from the Bavarian Research Foundation over a period of 28 months.

Industry insiders suggest that the current DVB-T2 based digital terrestrial TV services will be phased out around 2030, in favour of an all-IP environment. Similar developments are also happening in radio, with some countries leaning towards skipping DAB and moving straight from FM to IP-delivered services, including 5G.

The tests taking place in Bavaria could therefore have a major bearing on how we receive TV and radio through the airwaves in the future.

*Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service