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How 5G can improve the fan experience for Women’s World Cup viewers

The way people view – and participate in – live sporting events is evolving.

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As the FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place over the month of June, stadiums all over France will be housing tens of thousands of frenzied fans – and those people will all be bringing mobile devices with them. Whether at the game, at a local sports bar or watching from the comfort of home, fans will be taking photos, shooting video and checking in on highlights from other games to see what’s at stake for their favorite national team. Fans have high expectations and are looking for a more immersive sports experience than ever – but at the same time all that data usage puts a strain on local networks.

5G has the potential to be a vital tool for the sports sector, as it seeks to re-invent the fan experience at the arena and at home. Sporting events have the potential to better serve both the traveling fan attending every game in person and the die-hard “footie” fan catching the game remotely. The stakes are even higher for a tournament that connects the world like the World Cup.

Through live-streaming video, mixed reality experiences and real-time access to information about the game, the next generation in mobile wireless technology can create an enhanced experience, reinventing how fans participate in sports.

At the stadium: Live viewing plus

A great experience at the arena is fundamental to enjoying live sports. Where fans today see broadband connectivity to their smartphone for social media posts as table stakes, there is so much more that could be done digitally to connect fans to the action. This is an area where 5G has potential to improve the overall experience, compared to standard WiFi solutions.

A few areas stand out:

  • Improving the overall venue capacity to allow for increased video streaming. This could create a “personal Jumbotron” experience where fans can zoom in on one of the many cameras deployed in the stadium all from the power of their mobile device.
  • Augmented reality capabilities will allow fans to get the TV graphics overlays and commentary they’d see at home as part of their live experience, especially in a fast-moving game like soccer that never pauses the action.
  • Evolve social media posts from pictures/text. While this is an established feature today, restricted network capacity upstream when too many users try to stream diminishes the experience.

The introduction of 5G at a stadium also creates a horizontal platform to serve additional applications. Fans would be able to monitor and track athletes’ performance during practice and competition in real time, for example. The introduction of live betting in recent years makes stringent requirements on low network latency at the venues even more crucial. During the World Cup, fans watching one game in person will be tracking other matches simultaneously.

At home: Immersive fan experiences

Today’s sports viewing experience at home is driven by a high-quality TV screen, with smartphones and tablets as companions or “second screens.” Fans are looking for new ways to connect to the sporting experience digitally.

There is potential to create more immersive fan experiences with the introduction of 360-degree cameras, virtual and augmented reality. Fans can walk the sideline, see what the goalkeepers are seeing or join the victory celebration in the locker room – all serving the purpose of bringing fans closer to the action at the venue from home. These applications also provide a way to connect with friends watching the game at different physical locations, creating a “virtual bar” for the times you can’t be there in person.

And for sports fans in areas that don’t have access to fiber coverage, 5G enables fixed wireless access applications for very high-quality video streaming in 4K video, 360 or AR/VR formats.

Transforming media coverage of sports events

5G has the potential to reinvent the live sporting experience, not just for the fans, but the media as well.  Major sport events today require a large quantity of cameras and outside broadcasting buses, with expensive and unwieldy production technology usually needing dedicated fiber, satellite links or internet connections to transport captured footage to a main production center.

5G can be used to connect cameras without cables. It could be used for a subset of the cameras at major events, or as the primary transport technology for cameras at smaller events. The outside broadcasting bus – the “truck” that’s become so ubiquitous in live sports broadcasts – can be eliminated and video streamed directly to the production center. Live video streaming from any sport event is within reach once we eliminate the need for cables to all cameras.

The future of sports and media

These are all things we can do with 5G today, but the impact of the technology will have ramifications moving forward. The sports and media sector will be two of the first sectors to leverage 5G to improve the three areas described above. And from a business perspective, with 74 percent of mobile data traffic being video by 2024 it will become critical to get a grip on the already monetized services first, then doing a deep dive in how they can be transformed with 5G.

Live video streaming, with wireless video transport over 5G, will transform broadcast productions, video surveillance cameras and will introduce completely new categories of connected camera use. With the right creativity – and a network that can support it all – we have the capacity to bring an entirely new sporting experience to fans all over the world.

Read more about how 5G can transform industries and deliver new experiences here.

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