Streaming in the 5G Era: How Embedded Storage is Redefining the Future of Entertainment

By Grace Ensell, Project Manager at Western Digital.

  • 3 months ago Posted in

As Video-on-Demand (VoD) content continues to increase, so does the UK's rising appetite for streaming services and technologies. The entertainment landscape has shifted majorly from the silver screen to smaller devices. Powered by the proliferation of 5G technology, consumer content is becoming increasingly accessible on handheld devices.

Leading streaming services have been quick to embrace this transformative shift by optimising the experience on smart devices. This change has not only revolutionised how consumers access video content but also redefined the way we manage and download data onto our handheld devices. 

5G: A Digital Odyssey

The introduction of 5G, with its high-speed and low-latency capabilities, has paved the way for live video streaming in high-definition (HD), ultra-high-definition (UHD), and even 8K resolutions, all delivered seamlessly without buffering or loading. However, while 5G is enhancing video quality on handheld devices, there’s a pressing need for more efficient and robust storage solutions to keep up with clear quality and storage-hungry content.

Research from Statista reveals that almost 70% of the US digital audience watches videos on their smartphones, a trend mirrored in the UK and worldwide. With 87% of UK adults owning a smartphone, a further surge in VoD content consumption on handheld devices in the future can be anticipated. As the need to enhance streaming quality on mobile phones and tablets continues, both device providers and streaming services must protect their investment with effective data storage solutions to support the evolving entertainment experience.

Big Data in Little Devices 

Data storage is at the heart of this transformation for content accessed on mobile, smart, and other handheld devices. From the consumer perspective, this means faster, more reliable downloads and a seamless streaming experience. In an era where 5G, and embedded solutions are pioneering the digital landscape, data storage plays a central role in shaping the future of streaming as demand rises. 

New estimates from Ampere Analysis point towards a global spending of $42 billion on original and acquired film and TV content in 2023. Major streaming services continue to vie for original and engaging content to captivate existing subscribers and entice new audiences. Their vast content libraries demand secure and efficient storage solutions, especially as streaming platforms diversify their offerings, leading to a surge in data volumes and the emergence of significant storage challenges especially at the edge. It won’t be surprising to see phones or tablets with an average of 1TB of storage in the foreseeable future to handle the growth of streaming data. A typical two-hour movie in high definition, for example, takes up about 6GB of storage. Along with this ever-increasing data volume comes a high demand for flash-based storage with higher capacities, newer interfaces, faster read/write performance, longer data retention, and increased endurance and reliability. 

High performance will also play a crucial role when it comes to customer experience. To combat potential subscription fatigue and enhance customer loyalty of 19.8M UK households that have at least one paid Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD), streaming services must focus on delivering a seamless digital experience across all available platforms. The expectation is that smart and handheld devices should provide an experience as seamless as the experience available on laptops and televisions.

Too Fast, Too Clear: Enhancing Picture Quality on Smart Devices

As the streaming landscape evolves, there is a heightened focus on enriching visual data. Streaming platforms are updating their content production guidelines, reshaping content creation, and influencing the choice of camera production houses use. Over the next couple of years, consumers will witness a transition from 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) to 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels) and beyond (12K; 12.288 x 6.480 pixels). While this advancement promises a more immersive televisual and cinematic experience, it also presents challenges for handheld devices.

To keep pace with this evolution, smartphones, televisions, and mobile devices will require accelerated data processing capabilities. Flash memory will be indispensable in maintaining the ever-growing content quality, especially during the shift from 4K to 8K. This trend may even extend to 10K or 12K in the future, accompanied by heightened visual demands that come with new and innovative ways of filmmaking. 

As the streaming landscape continues to transform, driven by the escalating demands of consumers for subscription services, the role of data remains paramount in shaping the market. Data storage solutions will continue to drive and enable SVoD accessibility on our smart and handheld devices, ensuring that the entertainment of the future is right at the consumer’s fingertips.

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