Will 5G become a threat to DAB?
The new 5G network standard offers great potential for an efficient distribution of media content. As part of a research project, LTE 5G field tests for radio is currently under way in the vicinity of Munich in Bavaria. Large-scale TV transmissions will use the broadcasting mode FeMBMS from a transmitter location Wendelstein (1828 m above sea level) with an output power of 100 kilowatt ERP.
The field test significantly promotes the further technical development in this area and prepares for a link between broadcasting and mobile radio (unicast).
With the mode FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service) large transmission cells are combined with small transmission cells to create a large-area coverage up to 60 km. For this purpose, TV signals are broadcast simultaneously as test radio in channel 56 from the Wendelstein transmitter and from additional BR transmitter sites in Munich. Broadcasts are scheduled to begin at the end of 2018.
Partners involved in the project are IRT GmbH, Kathrein Werke KG, Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co KG, public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk and the mobile operator Telefonica Germany. The project is funded by the Bavarian Research Foundation.
In June 2017, international standardisation work was completed with the participation of European broadcasters and industry in order to efficiently transmit broadcasting services in large-scale 4G and 5G networks.
Following the news that 5G Broadcasting (FeMBMS*) is being tested for the first time this autumn in parts of southern Bavaria, industry chiefs have been keen to point out that this doesn't mean the end of DAB digital radio services.
Helwin Lesch, the Director of Distribution at Bavaria's public service broadcaster BR, has said that the new 5G Broadcasting mode FeMBMS will not replace the digital terrestrial radio DAB+. Although theoretically radio broadcasting could also be broadcast on the data stream, the 5G Broadcasting mode will "come primarily for video."
Industry leaders had been debating if DAB is, in fact, an intermediary technology - a stepping stone between FM and IP-radio. Concerns were voiced that if DAB is seen as a temporary stepping stone, it will put off industry, who may fear they will not receive a return on their investments and be a deterrent to consumers.
An ironic twist to this story is that the DAB system was invented in Munich in the mid 1980's and developed by the public broadcaster Bayrische Rundfunk.
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