The Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III will be the first time in the UK a public 5G Standalone (5G SA) network is used for a broadcast, due to an innovative partnership between Vodafone and ITN.
Vodafone has worked with ITN to dedicate a slice of Vodafone’s public 5G SA network for the broadcast of the Coronation – the first time any UK telco has provided a slice of its public 5G SA network for a major event broadcast.
Vodafone was the first UK telco to test its 5G SA network for public use in January 2023, when select consumers trialled the new network’s capabilities. Dedicating an exclusive slice of Vodafone’s public 5G SA network to ITN will enable the swift and secure transfer of the live Coronation broadcast coverage from Westminster to ITN’s HQ newsroom in Gray’s Inn Road, London, so it can then be shared across the nation and then worldwide.
Nick Gliddon, UK Business Director, Vodafone, said: “This innovative partnership will make the Coronation of HM King Charles III the first 5G SA coronation. We are proud to be working with ITN to play our part in helping make this special event happen.
“Innovation is at the heart of Vodafone, from the first text message to the first mobile call, we have been central in the UK’s adoption of digital technology. Now we are continuing this tradition by being the first to switch on 5G SA for the public to trial and providing a slice of this network for the Coronation.
“The possibilities with 5G SA are very exciting – AI, autonomous vehicles, holographic calls, IoT and more. 5G SA will turbo-charge the UK’s digital economy and pave the way for our next digital age.”
Jon Roberts, Director of Television, Production and Innovation at ITN, says: “It feels fitting that 70 years on from the 1953 Coronation, itself a milestone in outside broadcasting, ITN will be delivering coverage to audiences around the world while trialling the future of cellular connectivity.
“We are proud of our role in broadcasting this historic event, and excited to be blazing a trail in partnership with Vodafone as we explore the capabilities of 5G SA technology together.”
Network slicing is a new capability enabled by 5G SA, the next generation of 5G, which the UK Government recently called the “cornerstone of the UK’s digital economy”. One of its key benefits is that it allows telecoms operators to create separate and isolated networks for different use cases. Each slice can be configured differently. As they are isolated from each other, the performance on one would not impact another.
In the broadcasting industry, this is an exciting development for two reasons. Firstly, a minimum upload speed threshold can be set to guarantee that digitally dense content is uploaded quickly and reliably for live streaming.
Secondly, it removes the risk of network congestion impacting the performance of the broadcast. This is particularly relevant for mass events such as the Coronation, as well as for live content contribution in isolated locations.
As media organisations become increasingly reliant on mobile networks for outside broadcasts, achieving predictable network performance has become essential. Mobile private networks are a commonly used technology, but these can require heavy-duty equipment. They are also time-consuming, as advance planning is needed to get permission for a private network.
Network slicing gives broadcasters private mobile network for video transmission with no extra heavy-duty equipment, planning, back-office or spectrum licensing needed, and it can be accessed all via a SIM card.
The testing of the capability for this partnership was supported by Vodafone’s technology partner Ericsson and ITN’s technology partner Live U. This was done at Vodafone and Coventry University’s 5G SA Media Innovation Lab in Coventry – the first of its kind in the UK. Broadcasters and other media companies, as well as the software development community, have been invited to the lab to develop 5G SA use cases for the media industry, working alongside Vodafone engineers and Coventry University academics. The lab supports proof of concepts and allows development and testing of end-to-end solutions in a safe and configurable environment.