How Will 5G Impact Community Media? - Nine North

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How will 5G impact community media

How Will 5G Impact Community Media?

5G will change everything. The increased capabilities we will have related to speed, responsiveness, and the amount of devices we can connect to at once, will unlock a whole new world. Are we thinking about the impact 5G will have on Community Media? We all have had a lot on our mind related to FCC rule-makings and cord-cutting, but we really need to pay attention to this NOW.

What is 5G?

Let’s get a little historical info on what past G’s have been, the “Old G’s” if you will. 1G brought us phone calls. Think Nokia brick phones, which was my first cell phone, complete with duct tape holding the battery in place. 2G was the introduction of text messaging. 3G brought the internet to our finger tips, and 4G made everything much faster.

In comes 5G. 5G is really fast. According to PC Mag, the fastest 4G modem tops out at 2 gigabytes per second. 5G is ten times as fast at 20 gigabytes per second. With 4G technology, it takes you 10 minutes to download an HD movie. With 5G technology, it will take less than a second. Latency (lagging) rate is also very important. 5G has practically zero latency rate, which means the interactions you have on your devices are a millisecond behind in real time. Way fast.

The Community Media Part

As community media professionals, we have permanent worry lines about waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop” related to financing and cord-cutting.

     “Will 5G be our undoing? It can go both ways.”

The Undoing

Cable companies, that also provide internet services, are embracing the wave of 5G. Verizon offers free Apple TV and YouTube subscriptions to new 5G customers in four cities. They are more quickly moving customers to over the top devices because the speed and lack of latency will make it a positive customer experience. That translates to less franchise fees to support community media since they will not be using the local cable infrastructure.

The Doing

Franchise and PEG fees aside, 5G opens up a new world of technology. There are some amazing community media centers out there doing some different things.

Here are a couple of things that 5G will help us expand into.

Wide Adoption of AR/VR 

Some community media centers have developed and implemented technology around virtual reality like the Public VR Labspearheaded by Brookline Interactive Group. The Public VR Lap is building Community XR. Approximately 15 community media centers are leveraging this technology in their facility! 5G capabilities will “virtually” eliminate latency (see what I did there?). Latency is the lag, or jerkiness you see in video games, or VR experiences. According to ABI Research, “ABI Research anticipates that 5G will bring about a 10X improvement in throughout, a 10X decrease in latency, a 100X improvement in traffic capacity, and a 100X improvement in network efficiency over 4G.” Think of the experience you can have via a VR program if there is no delay. For community media centers moving in this direction, I applaud you.

The Internet of Things 

The internet of things (IoT) is the connection of multiple devices that gather data in real time. Some examples include smart houses with thermostats that automatically adjust, or with lights that shut off after you leave.


I don’t know about your media center, but mine has a lot of things. Implementing smart machines on a network, paired with wireless trackers, now you can track camera equipment, gaff tape, and tripods. We can analyze that data optimize daily operations, and proactively maintain equipment.

For cable commissions that provide installation services, we will now be able to track inventory and supplies in real time, automating deliveries of equipment.

        “We can reduce our carbon footprint by implementing green and smart technology in our studio spaces.”

For the traditional Public Access Stations, they can learn when the spikes of volunteer action and foot traffic happen and make more informed decisions.

Donor Metrics

This still falls under the IoT, but its impact is important. This is also a vital tool to inform donors about the impact your media center is having. Donors are demanding transparency and what to know where every dollar is going. If we are looking to replace franchise fee funding with individual donors, we need to provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision.

We are better able to collect data about our impact on the community through the IoT and 5G.

        “More data means more communication to donors about the impact we are making on the community.”

Donors need to feel connected to the organization. We wear many hats in a nonprofit community media station, so we don’t have the bandwidth to forge every relationship. The implementation of the IoT with 5G will potentially automate the way we interact with our donors.

The Wall Street Journal provided some excellent examples on how to create meaningful and lasting donor relationships. Although not tied to community media, one example was “A sensor can be installed on the well to monitor when and how much water is extracted on a specific day or over time. This data can show donors the tangible impact of their gifts, translating the amount of water withdrawn to people served. Sensors can also gather well maintenance data, specifically data on whether new parts or additional upkeep are required.”

Operator-Less City Meetings

I’m prepared for the backlash on this one. Our bread and butter in the coverage of municipal meetings.

        “There will always be a space for meeting coverage as long as there is space for government transparency.”

But the technology to remotely produce city meetings is there. We can eliminate human error, consolidate equipment usage, and still provide the vital coverage of city meetings. Yes, this is scary. But did you read my first section about less franchise fees? That means we need to do more with less.

Does this seem far-fetched? Maybe. Things are changing, quickly. We need to embrace the change, and lean into the possibility of doing things differently.

What are your thoughts of 5G’s impact?