The last few years have witnessed a tremendous growth of the demand for wireless services and a significant increase of the number of mobile subscribers. A recent data traffic forecast from Cisco reported that the global mobile data traffic reached 1.2 zettabytes per year in 2016, and the global IP traffic will increase nearly threefold over the next 5 years. Based on these predictions, a 127-fold increase of the IP traffic is expected from 2005 to 2021. It is also anticipated that the mobile data traffic will reach 3.3 zettabytes per year by 2021, and that the number of mobile-connected devices will reach 3.5 per capita.
With such demands for higher data rates and for better quality of service (QoS), fifth generation (5G) standardization initiatives, whose initial phase was specified in June 2018 under the umbrella of Long Term Evolution (LTE) Release 15, have been under vibrant investigation. In particular, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has identified three usage scenarios (service categories) for 5G wireless networks: (i) enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), (ii) ultra-reliable and low latency communications (uRLLC), and (iii) massive machine type communications (mMTC). The vast variety of applications for beyond 5G wireless networks has motivated the necessity of novel and more flexible physical layer (PHY) technologies, which are capable of providing higher spectral and energy efficiencies, as well as reduced transceiver implementations.
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In past years, various encrypted algorithms have been proposed to fully or partially protect the multimedia content in view of practical applications. In the context of digital TV broadcasting, transparent encryption only protects partial content and fulfills both security and quality requirements. To date, only a few reference-based works have been reported to evaluate the quality of transparently encrypted images. However, these works are incapable of reference-unavailable conditions. In this paper, we conduct the first attempt that proposes a novel quality evaluator in the absence of reference images. The key strategy of the proposed metric lies in extracting features by considering the motivation of transparently encrypted images. Specifically, given that encrypted images prevent content from being easily recognized, several features, including correlation coefficient, information entropy, and intensity statistic, are preliminarily extracted to estimate visual recognizability. Meanwhile, considering that encrypted images are avoided since they are of extremely low quality, we also capture many features to measure the distortions on multiple quality-sensitive image attributes, such as naturalness, structure, and texture. Finally, the quality evaluator is built by bridging all extracted features and corresponding quality scores via a regression module. Experimental results demonstrate that the proposed method is superior to the mainstream no-reference quality evaluation methods designed for synthetically distorted images and possesses a close approximation to state-of-the-art reference-based methods designed for encrypted images.
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