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What the Arrival of 5G Means for the Future of Mobile Experiences

Talk of the advent of 5G has been buzzing in the tech communities for some time, but now that numerous telecommunications companies have announced the launch of their 5G-enabled devices and networks at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, the future with fifth-generation cellular mobile technology is upon us.

While 5G is expected to have a major impact on the Internet-of-Things (IoT), its impact on real-time communications and user engagement, especially on mobile devices, will be transformative. In particular, mobile live video broadcast will reap the benefits of 5G, as the technology addresses some of the biggest challenges affecting the limitations and shortcomings of 4G and the public Internet, such as latency and data reliability, that exist today.

As access to 5G becomes a reality, developers and enterprises should consider how they take advantage of the cutting-edge technology to deepen mobile engagement experiences for the hyper-connected users of tomorrow.

Why the Speed Boost Matters

Every new generation of mobile connectivity brings about a new forward leap in the mobile experience. For example, moving from 2G to 3G took mobile from basic SMS texting to the era of basic web content connectivity. Subsequently, the increased wireless speeds and stability that 4G introduced gave rise to the era of on-demand mobile content and real-time communications such as video streaming and live broadcasting.

In turn, we witnessed mobile disruption across countless industries from social media and gaming to retail and telehealth. For example, YouTube Live, a live streaming feature from the video platform, allows its millions of creators to share live video while they’re gaming, attending a sports event, or even performing live at a concert, all for their subscribers to enjoy in real time. HQ Trivia, the live game show app that went viral in 2017, continues to allow more than one million players to tune in to a single gaming session on their mobile devices simultaneously. Taobao Live, a live video feature from the Chinese online shopping platform, allows thousands of merchants to live broadcast their products to thousands of eagers shoppers who tune in to watch﹘and pay for their purchases﹘on their mobile devices, the most popular tool for shopping and making payments in Asia, a mobile-first economy.

However, 4G isn’t without its limitations. It’s not always capable of supporting smooth and continuous high-resolution video on-the-go, like in the case of live broadcasting. When platforms and developers take advantage of live video, voice, interactive broadcasting and other forms of real-time communications technology but don’t have access to a network of globally distributed data centers, the quality of the user experience can vary depending on the device used and network stability. So, while flawless and uninterrupted live mobile experiences are possible through solutions like our Agora Video SDK, these seamless experiences are still far from the norm.

Enter 5G, the latest technology in the wireless network evolution. At launch, 5G will progressively replace existing 4G networks, increasing cellular real-world data transfer speed from 10-15 Mbps to 100+ Mbps. Faster speeds and faster connections will set new benchmarks for existing mobile experiences while creating new experiences that we have yet to imagine. In terms of live broadcasting on mobile devices, we can expect video quality at 4K HDR or better, even combined with AR and other experience enhancements.

Better Live Voice and Video Experiences

Along with increased speed, 5G is expected to bring more bandwidth and significantly lower latency, which will eliminate network delays, as well as increased throughput. In an increasingly connected world where people are using smart and mobile devices more than ever, 5G will enable people to communicate and interact in ways not possible with 4G.

Some companies have already started putting potential use cases with 5G into practice. Through a partnership with Qualcomm, Vodafone UK has begun a series of lab tests using a 5G smartphone form factor device, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon™ X50 5G modem. The tests will focus on developing live streaming 4K video and 3D holographic calling for on-the-go use. SK Telecom, the largest mobile network in South Korea, has already made strides in 5G by conducting the first live TV broadcast using the technology earlier this year. Deemed a success, the high-quality video was streamed under a second latency despite being broadcast from a congested environment.

5G is expected to bring new depth to real-time audio and video broadcasts. Ultra HD experiences will become the norm across all RTC-enabled features, such as group video chat and 3D surround audio, to deliver truly immersive mobile experiences. Near zero latency will also pave the path for previously blocked use cases, including cloud game streaming, connected self-driving vehicles, and large scale robot-operated factories, and greatly improve stability and smoothness experiences in real-time audio and video broadcasts.

Not the Be All and End All

While 5G will significantly impact the way we communicate over the public Internet, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem developers and enterprises face. After all, bandwidth is only one part of the equation when it comes to creating a high-quality real-time experience.

In order to have a smooth streaming experience with no unwanted effects like delay, jitter, and freeze, a global delivery network of data centers coupled with advanced encoding algorithms are needed to dynamically manage the routing of voice and video to overcome packet loss.

With over 200 globally distributed data centers, Agora’s Software-Defined Real-Time Network (SD-RTN™) enables seamless, uninterrupted, high-quality real-time video delivery around the world. In the case of up to 40 percent packet loss, Agora can maintain a smooth video and voice call experience, so even if 5G improves the current state of mobile live video, SD-RTN™ will provide an extra layer of protection and security to ensure the best Real-Time Engagement experience possible. Want to learn more about integrating Agora’s live voice, video, and interactive broadcasting solutions into your application or platform? Talk to our team.