The First 5G Smart Theater in China

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3Q 2021 | IN-6290

As entertainment expectations continue to digitize, the performing arts sector is now branching into immersive theater experiences.

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China Plans to Establish its First 5G Smart Theater


The National Theater of China (NTC) has recently announced its strategic collaboration with China Unicom and Huawei to establish the 5G Smart Theater Joint Laboratory in Beijing. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT), the partners would leverage their technical expertise and knowledge to achieve the goal of digitalizing the performing arts sector. The collaboration seeks to explore and integrate the cultural industry with emerging technologies such as 5G, cloud computing, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI). This could enrich the overall viewing experience of the audience and broaden its cultural impact. The NTC harnesses strengths in its creative capabilities, its network of celebrities, and three well-equipped theaters. It is complemented by China Unicom’s cloud integration and smart venue expertise, together with Huawei’s high-definition video production capabilities and dual gigabit network solution.

Revolutionizing Theater Experiences


Traditionally, the limitation of theater is that requires the audience to be physically present at the site to enjoy high-quality performances. This constraint would be addressed by the 5G Smart Theater concept, which allows the audience to enjoy the show wherever they are. Through technological applications such as network slicing, Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), and 5G private networks, the theater communication infrastructure and operations could be enhanced. From there, the objectives of smart management, operations, and multi-theater streaming could be developed and realized. This would help to drive the implementation of “5G + 4k/8k ultra-high-definition + cloud integration”.

The introduction of 5G Smart Theaters could enable the audiences to meet the leading performers over the cloud and enjoy cultural performances digitally. Popular pieces would no longer be constrained by the limitation of tickets and this could address the issue of under-capacity for popular shows, which often results in having to turn prospective customers away due to surging demands. With that, 5G Smart Theaters could better cater to customer demands. This could be translated to more economic growth while delivering greater engagement and enjoyment of the performing arts.

With 5G Smart Theaters, the audience could enjoy the same performance through multiple perspectives simultaneously by leveraging the low latency quality of 5G networks. The system would be able to pick up subtle changes of light and colors and create a realistic visual experience for the audience. Soon, the audience would also be able to watch 3D dramas directly using 5G enabled devices, such as VR goggles that are equipped with 5G transmission function. That would enable the tracking of the actors’ body movements and expressions during performances. The development of 5G Smart Theaters would enhance production efficiency and visual effects of performances.

The NTC is currently engaged in the upgrading works and deployment of its 5G network, front-end mobile filming platform, and advanced video processing systems at its Xianfeng Theater in Dongdan. This would establish the basic infrastructure to enable normalized output of cloud media content. The enhanced Xianfeng Theater would become a base of dual performance integration. The overall upgrading project is estimated to be completed by November 2021. The refurbished theater would then usher its first batch of an audience to immerse in the smarter theater experience, which could establish the pioneering benchmarks for the performing arts sector. Following the completion of the project, NTC would also be considering the future development of digital industries.

The New Format of Literature and Arts


The integration of multi-perspective viewing, high-definition broadcast, and touch-screen magnification features into performing arts would raise challenges in the production process, such as magnified scrutiny on performers and crew. However, these are inevitable aspects where cultural development is bound to follow the developments of the time, which include technological progress. On that note, the audience could also look forward to the new form of literature and art, when empowered by such technologies. Currently, China has more than one billion active users on its 5G networks, which presents many opportunities economically and presents social benefits in terms of cultural development.

The COVID-19 pandemic is seen as a stimulus that drives this change, where safe management and lockdown measures had hit hard on the performing arts sector. The transformation in the delivery of such cultural products and services is critical for the industry to survive and prosper during such challenging periods. The immersive video services market is one that presents much potential, such as in the Asia-Pacific region, the Online Video Market Subscription Revenue is expecting to see a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 20.2%. Furthermore, with the number of 5G subscribers in China forecasted to reach 739 million by 2025, and the 5G market would serve as a prospective route for the industry players to investigate. They would likely be monitoring NTC closely to determine if NTC’s 5G Smart Theater strategy would be able to help the performing arts industry secure traction in this digitized era, and overcome the constraints brought by the pandemic. Concurrently, the NTC is hoping to establish a novel theater ecosystem through the producing new types of content and production while building up its digital infrastructure to enhance the viewing experience for the audience.



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