The innovative team behind a global project which proved the portability of a flexible, private 5G ‘network in a box’ for live TV broadcasts has been named the IBC Accelerator Project of the Year for 2022.

The University of Strathclyde and Strathclyde spin-out Neutral Wireless, with support from the Scotland 5G Centre Wave 1 projects, led the cutting edge ‘5G Remote Production in the middle of nowhere’ project.

It proved the portability of a flexible, private 5G ‘network in a box’ for live broadcast production use cases, for untethered broadcast production in real world scenes.

Global trials

Designed by the University of Strathclyde’s Software Defined Radio team, StrathSDR, and engineered by Neutral Wireless, the technology has been used for trials across the globe as part of the IBC Accelerator programme.

The pioneering initiative demonstrated a series of 5G-enabled media broadcasting proof-of-concepts by using remote geographical locations, including from a rhino conservancy on the Kenyan equator, a Maori school in New Zealand and a music festival in Ireland before the live Pitlochry Highland Games broadcast. It was also used as part of the live coverage of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s final departure from Edinburgh last September.

Professor Bob Stewart, who leads StrathSDR, said: “With Neutral Wireless, we engineered our own 5G software defined radio in partnership with EU SMEs giving us complete control to create customised and bespoke SDR solutions. 

“The IBC Accelerator provided an incredible collaborative platform to work with the world’s top broadcasters and supply chain partners to create real live operational networks in shared and lightly licensed bands. “

Participants of the winning project also include AMD, Microsoft, Net Insight, Zixi, HAIVISION, Singular.Live, Nulink, AWS, Vislink and Glasgow-based production company, QTV.

The project was championed by BBC, BT Sport, BT Media & Broadcast, RTÈ, TV2, Olympic Broadcasting Services, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery, University of Strathclyde, Scotland 5G Centre, and Neutral Wireless.

Private network

Dr Cameron Speirs, CEO of Neutral Wireless, said: “It was a hugely successful team effort involving technology innovators, national broadcasters and local communities – coming together to solve technical and operational challenges and demonstrating that private (or non-public) 5G can positively disrupt traditional broadcasting workflows. Private 5G has come of age in media broadcast.”

The award was presented at the IBC2023 Accelerators Kickstart Day at London’s IET, aimed at broadcasters, platforms, studios and key media and technology vendors.

Technology challenges

The IBC Accelerator Programme was launched in 2019, to support the media and entertainment industry with a framework for agile, collaborative and fast-track innovation through a multi-company project-based approach to solving complex media and entertainment business and technology challenges.

George Bevir, Editor, SVG and one of the judges for the IBC2022 Accelerators, said: “The range and number of Champions and Participants involved in the project was also a great example of the strength of the Accelerator programme in general, in being able to draw together an impressive group of organisations from a range of locations. 

“The Proof of Concept and subsequent use for coverage of the Queen’s funeral provided a clear demonstration of the work and progress of the Accelerator project.”