Digital Catapult report paves the way for widespread 5G adoption at live events

Ricoh Arena outdoor event

A breakthrough report examining 5G’s potential to revolutionise the way fans interact with content at live sporting events, including football and motor racing, has been published today.

The UK authority on advanced digital technology, Digital Catapult, has produced the report as the latest milestone in 5G VISTA: a government-backed consortium using 5G technologies to deepen audience engagement, broaden content for fans and create valuable new commercial opportunities.

5G Broadcast has the potential to provide in-stadia sports fans with live, high quality content streams, and provides a viable and cost-effective alternative to unstable networks during events with a large number of attendees.

The report – 5G VISTA: Bringing new dimensions to in-stadia sporting events – examines considerations for 5G Broadcast technology’s widespread rollout at sporting events, pinpointing current challenges and opportunities associated with its adoption. It also assesses how the 5G VISTA project can achieve a commercially viable product to take to market, and deliver innovative, high-quality and reliable 5G services to customers.

Kostas Katsaros, Lead 5G Technologist at Digital Catapult, said: “5G VISTA has made really critical strides towards a future where connectivity woes at large scale events are a thing of the past. Thanks to hard work across the consortium, we have proved that 5G Broadcast offers an efficient and cost-effective alternative to other cellular solutions being deployed at sporting events – existing options that can really break the bank for a network provider.

“This report highlights the commercial viability of using a 5G Broadcast-enabled solution like 5G VISTA to take spectator experiences to a new level at football or motor racing events. It marks a leap towards this kind of solution being rolled out on a mass scale, and I can’t wait to see where learnings from 5G VISTA take us next.”

Led by Digital TV Group (DTG), the VISTA project is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 5G Testbeds and Trials programme, a £200 million investment in testbeds and trials across the UK to explore novel implementations of 5G across different sectors.

As part of the 5G VISTA project, a prototype app was developed that enables spectators to switch between high-quality live streams of an event – allowing them to get up close to the action with multi-angle camera views, whether in-stadia or behind the scenes – with the tap of a device.

The new report’s publication follows a trial of this app at a live football match between MK Dons and Ipswich Town back in February, which allowed spectators to view different perspectives of the game on mobile devices. The trialists’ consensus was that the app provided an enhancement to match experience, allowing users to find a natural balance between watching the pitch and screen – rather than detracting from the event.

The report’s conclusions include:

  • 5G Broadcast/Multicast is an efficient and environmentally low-impact solution that augments the capability of heavily-congested cellular and Wi-Fi networks such as those found in sports events and music concerts
  • There are clear benefits to 5G Broadcast technology such as allowing broadcast servicing to operate on a cellular network, supporting the delivery of multi-angle HD video streams to thousands of viewers, and generating revenue through partnership deals and additional sales channels
  • Barriers do still exist to its widespread rollout, such as rights ownership which is complex due to existing business agreements
  • While it has potential for use at many different sporting events, 5G VISTA is concluded to be a commercially viable solution in two markets in particular, Football and Motor Racing – provided a clear business plan is in place. The report outlines these commercial opportunities, and identifies steps for further exploration
  • The report concludes that in order to maximise return-on-investment, both these target markets (Football and Motor Racing) need to be addressed with the same core software platform technology
  • Products such as the 5G VISTA app must augment and improve live experience, rather than detracting – and provide further access to action at an event where activity might be happening elsewhere. An example of this is Formula 1, where spectators cannot see all of the action at all times

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