Institute of Communications and Connected Systems


Feature: A multimedia revolution for telecommunications and broadcasting

11 September 2018

Silvia Rossi, researcher in techniques for Virtual Reality streaming, reports on the multimedia revolution seen at the 57th FITCE Congress

Image of studio over media city canal

Author  Silvia Rossi, PhD Student

Research theme logos - Intelligent High Capacity Networks, Infrastructures for Smart Services and Applications, Information and Data Processing
Multimedia | 5G | Internet of Things | Broadcast 

New methods of multimedia delivery have revolutionised so much of the way we now consume both information and entertainment but what is yet to come and how is this revolution developing. Silvia Rossi, a researcher in techniques for Virtual Reality streaming, recently presented her work to members of the telecommunication and broadcast communities and reports on what she found. 

ITV building at media city
Thanks to the Institute of Communications and Connected Systems (ICCS), I attended the 57th FITCE Congress chaired by Prof Andy Valdar, visiting professor at our Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

The Federation of Telecommunications Engineers of the European Union (FITCE) is an association with over 60 years of experience and delegates from 10 different European countries. It was born to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, new ideas and networking between industry and academia. This year the theme of FITCE's annual congress was “Delivery and Consumption of Digital Media”, chosen due to the rapid growth of online media streaming creating effects and challenges to both telecommunications and broadcasting industries. The congress was held at the University of Salford in MediaCity UK (Salford) just 20 minutes from Manchester. MediaCity UK is a modern and green area and core of the main England media organisations (i.e., BBC, ITV).

View of media city over the canal
Very informative keynotes and talks were presented showing an overview from different standpoints of the pivotal moment for digital media that we are living through. The core theme in several presentations was, as expected, the on-coming 5G standard that should be launched between  2019 and 2020. While 4G enabled the explosion of video streaming, this standard seems to be the key technology for the “Internet of Things”. This important novelty leads also to changes in habits and preferences of the audience, for example from recent surveys, the television is slowly losing its rule as the main apparatus to watch multimedia content, leaving the dominance of mobile devices in its place. In fact, people, especially younger generations, prefer more and more short video content to watch on their smartphones, since they are always and everywhere connected. Following the trend, multimedia formats are also changing adding more definition with 8K resolution and new user experience with Virtual Reality (VR) applications. Finally to have more and more personalised and interactive transmissions, object-based delivering methods seem to be becoming a reality, in this movement media files are not broadcasted to everyone in a single format but they are turned into a collection of media objects such that the user can assemble them based on his/her own preference (i.e., devices, environment).

BBC Sports Studio
During the conference, I presented “Learning optimal streaming strategies for virtual reality application”, an overview of main challenges around 360° video streaming based upon my main research project, which aims to optimize the delivery of this video with a user-centric strategy. The presentation was received well and provided a great opportunity to gain feedback from the industrial community.

The general atmosphere at the congress was very friendly, with interesting social events alongside the technical programme. The University of Salford gave us the opportunity to experience their most advanced technologies. Highlights from me included seeing the latest 4K Ultra HD TV and one of the first example of footage recorded at 8K, practical demonstrations that major revolutions of multimedia are really underway. We also visited the media production facilities of dock10 where some of the main UK television programs such as The Voice and Mastermind are recorded. In particular, we saw the studio where every day the BBC sports news is broadcast from, along with witnessing the crew working on the new season of “All together now”, a recent British reality music competition. Finally, to celebrate the end of this event, a delicious dinner was organised at Quays Bar with a wonderful view of MediaCityUK Piazza and the canal.

All in all the Congress was an excellent showcase of how multimedia is both stimulating and undergoing a dramatic change, providing new opportunities in technical, artistic and social fields. I thank the organisers and look forward to observing and partaking in some of these exciting developments during my career.

Silvia and Prof Valdar at the conference dinner