Deeper Dive—How AT&T’s 5G will change LiveU’s broadcasting backpacks

AT&T LiveU 5G broadcasting
LiveU said that the 5G backpacks should be in the field by the end of the year. (AT&T/LiveU)

LiveU’s portable broadcasting solution, stuffed inside a backpack, already runs off a lot of different network signals. Soon the company will add 5G to that list.

LiveU recently announced trials with AT&T aimed at ironing out the kinks of using 5G for video transport. Avi Cohen, co-founder and chief operations officer at LiveU, said 5G is going to take the LiveU backpack’s streaming reliability from 99% to 99.9%.

LiveU has been around for about 13 years with operations in the U.S. for the past 11. Prior to LiveU’s backpack live broadcast solutions – which bond together cellular signals from current 4G and LTE networks along with satellite and Wi-Fi connectivity – broadcasters had to drive big satellite or microwave trucks for remote broadcasting. Now, broadcasters can use the backpacks to compress video using HEVC, split up the video and sent it over the bonded network, and then reassemble it on the server after it arrives.

Cohen said now about 95% of breaking broadcast news is produced using LiveU’s backpacks. And, through LiveU’s newly announced 5G trials with AT&T, the company’s backpacks could soon break news ever faster and more reliably.

He said the trouble with the current LTE networks the backpacks use is that those networks can be crowded and therefore they might provide unpredictable amounts bandwidth and delay.

“It’s not a stable network especially in a congested area,” Cohen said. He used the example of sporting events where there are large concentrations of users on mobile networks.

5G technologies like network slicing, Cohen said, will allow broadcasters and programmers using LiveU’s backpacks to provide much more reliable streams in locations where lots of people are using mobile networks.

Cohen said the extra bandwidth afforded by 5G means that broadcasters will now be able to connect more than one camera to a single backpack. He also said the 5G-enabled backpacks will be able to transmit 4K signals.

“More stability, lower latency, higher capacity and a big, big help in congested areas. This is the motivation to move to 5G,” Cohen said.

Before the 5G backpacks show up in the field, Cohen said AT&T and LiveU will be testing modems to see how they behave in 5G environments. The companies will also be testing handoff from 5G to LTE to 3G.

Cohen said that the 5G backpacks should be in the field by the end of the year.