The European Broadcasting Union says that 5G needs to be taken seriously by public service broadcasters. It says it should be possible to receive free-to-air 5G services on any 5G device without needing a specific SIM card. That is already envisaged in the technical standards but whether it will be supported is another matter.

Jean Philip De Tender, the director of media at the European Broadcasting Union, told an audience at the Media 2020 conference in Bucharest that public service broadcasters should lobby to be present on all ‘significant platforms’, and this will probably mean being present on 5G services.

He said that there are variations in opinion among EBU members, but there is a general acceptance that if 5G does become a popular medium, then public service broadcasters will need to be there.

He called for EBU members to try to influence the technical standards for 5G, so that it can be used not only for delivering internet video-on-demand services for which the user pays but also a ‘5G-Broadcast’ mode that allows the reception of free-to-air services without a specific SIM card.

If this is done, he said, the user would be able to enjoy high speed connections for both conventional internet services and the equivalent of both linear broadcast and non-linear services, on the same mobile terminal. “If we can achieve this, we will have a ‘win-win’ situation for service providers and users,” he said.

Similar arguments have been made in the past for the incorporation of broadcast radio receivers in mobile phones. Whether we will see 5G devices that can receive free-to-air broadcast television remains uncertain.

The EBU has published 11 policy priorities for the next five years, calling on EU policy-makers to defend media freedom and pluralism and secure a fair and balanced environment for the sector. One of these policies is supporting efficient and reliable distribution of public service media. It says that in the future it will also be key to facilitate innovative solutions combining broadcast and broadband which integrate 5G solutions for broadcasters.

EU Policies for Media & Democracy is published by the EBU and available from its web site