Dec 17, 2019

Newsrooms begin tinkering with 5G

A GIF of 5 phones lighting on and off.

Illustration:Sarah Grillo, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The New York Times began conducting field tests of its new 5G technologies on the sidelines of Sunday's Giants vs. Dolphins game, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: The New York Times head of research and development Marc Lavallee says that the company is preparing for a slew of 5G firsts next year, like the first 5G Super Bowl and the first 5G Olympics.

The first experiment at Sunday's game involved using a small device called a "backpack" that can transmit media through 5G signal available at the stadium. (About half of NFL stadiums are currently wired for 5G.)

  • Eventually, Lavallee says this will be all done through a mobile device. "The real transition point is next year, when you go from having not having widely available 5G service, to having more reliable access that you can actually use for reporting."

The second experiment took place in the late summer during Hurricane Dorian. The Times used 5G equipment as part of its reporting process to speed up the way it captured 360-degree videos and images of the storm's damage.

  • The Times has long used photogrammetry, or the practice of taking thousands of photos or videos of every single angle of an object or place and stitching them together to create a 360-degree photo or video, for AR and VR. Using 5G will make this much faster, and allow more detail.

The big picture: The New York Times set up a 5G lab at beginning 2019 with the backing of Verizon, knowing that a full 5G rollout would take years. It's one of several newsrooms beginning to experiment with ways that 5G will change journalism.

  • The Washington Post and Verizon rival AT&T announced a 5G partnership last month.
  • Verizon Media, which includes brands like HuffPost and Yahoo Sports, launched a 5G studio in Los Angeles in April to test faster content transfers.

Our thought bubble: 5G, for now, is like the new augmented reality or virtual reality. It's not widely accessible, but big newsrooms want to start experimenting with it so that they will be ahead of the curve when it eventually reaches mass consumer adoption.

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