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Connected stadiums lead to connected fans

Posted on Aug 6, 2022 by FEED Staff

5G networks are promising a whole new model for in-venue experience

Up to now, live sports TV images have been transmitted from wired cameras to the OB truck at the venue, through satellite or fibre to the studio, and onwards to the viewer’s screen.

With 5G mobile communications technology, the path taken by the live picture to the screen can be massively shortened. Images from the camera or smartphone go directly into a virtual studio in the cloud, then to the screen, without detour or prohibitive latency.

In the living room, fans can watch with very little delay and potentially experience new perspectives on the game. Stable networks and guaranteed bandwidths are vital for these advances.

For an in-stadium 5G project to succeed, close collaboration between key stakeholders – mobile network operator, venue owner, rights holder and content provider – is essential. Most importantly, the stadium needs to be fitted out with next-generation 5G infrastructure linking to a mobile edge cloud in 5G, ensuring sufficient bandwidth and stability. 

Many game organisers and venue owners see in-venue apps as a means of striking a balance between the broadcast and in-person experience. With TV constantly improving, some sports fans wonder if a view from the couch is preferable. If more perspectives and apps are available in the stadium, spectators could watch the event from all sides.

Friendly mobile networks

While fans are aware they can interact with games on their phones in the stands, current mobile technology does not facilitate this in a stable manner. Thousands of people simultaneously attempting to access high-quality footage via large mobile networks is just not sustainable. This flurry of activity has the potential to degrade feed quality, leaving streams lagging behind what’s actually happening in the contest itself. 

The key at present is the telco provider. A fully connected ‘5G stadium’ ensures that: (a) images can be transferred directly from live production facilities to fans’ phones; and (b) new possibilities arise for never-before-seen camera angles and AR-driven smartphone apps. 

The main advantage of 5G compared to 4G is capacity; the network’s best use cases are in high-data-demand hotspots such as airports, train stations and sports venues. As general data demands rise, with the amount consumed per customer going up year-on-year, the capacity of 5G will also increase over its lifetime.

Within the sports venue, 5G cameras can be placed in areas inaccessible to manned, wired equipment – such as near the goal netting, on walkways at the top of the stadium, the tunnel from the dressing rooms to the field, and beside team benches. 

Network slicing is a unique feature of 5G, offering increased reliability for live production, especially in congested areas. Using this, you can effectively reserve a piece of the 5G spectrum, so your devices won’t compete with anyone else for bandwidth in that slice.

Such isolation is impossible when data traffic is on a contended network like 4G or Wi-Fi. This becomes a stumbling block in densely populated areas, where thousands may be using the same phone or cell tower at the same time. 

5G also offers the potential of ‘liberated’ production, using ultra low-latency transport. Now, the reality of 5G cameras with vision mixing and live production in the cloud is enabled, with just a laptop.

Fewer crew members need to be at the stadium, with traditional production operated by remote teams, across multiple locations. Needless to say, reducing the air, road and rail travel significantly cuts the carbon footprint of broadcasters and content producers. 

Storytelling perspectives

Last November, Sky Sport in Germany presented a Handball-Bundesliga game between SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Füchse Berlin via O2’s high-end 5G network. This was the first live broadcast in Europe via pure 5G, and the game was also streamed on skysport.de and the Sky Sport YouTube channel.

Sky Deutschland senior vice president of sport production, Alessandro Reitano, told a follow-up webinar hosted by production partner Vizrt: “The handball combines two worlds. We are looking at the evolution of the 5G network and how it can help us contribute and distribute content in a different way. Therefore, 5G in broadcast is needed. This is new – and I’m proud we’ve been able to work with the handball federation.”

In 2020, Sky Deutschland produced a handball match end-to-end with 5G, where 5G was the enabler from a distribution point of view. The team used 12 smartphones in parallel with a traditional broadcast. This lean, flexible set-up enabled them to explore the use of smartphones with a new perspective for storytelling. “We saw that it worked, but the quality was unexpected: not because of 5G, but the smartphones. They are consumer devices,” said Reitano.

“This year, we said, ‘let’s replicate a traditional broadcast in the cloud’, using four broadcast cameras and four smartphones – an eight-camera production, end-to-end. Again, we’re proud to be working with a federation that says, ‘yes, we want to be pioneers by doing something new’. We can produce lower-tier sports to a higher level.

“O2, our 5G operator, provided a dedicated 5G campus network. We saw that, with smartphones, we could create a totally fresh perspective: new angles to engage fans in the stands with live crosses, where they are watching the match.

“Normally,” Reitano continues, “you cannot get such emotions in a live production. Streaming traditional broadcast cameras with LiveU units, a Vizrt NDI production backbone and 5G, we were able to keep the quality level to that of your established broadcast. This was something new and powerful.”

5G Gipfel AR, the augmented reality app of Eyecandylab, provided extra information about the handball match and players from both sides, available for Android and iOS. 

With 5G, we are seeing industries transform. Reimagining live events is a great demonstration of its power. Working together – enabled by high bandwidth and the potential to guarantee that bandwidth – telco providers, federations, stadium owners and content rights holders can unlock advancements for Tier 1 coverage. This can provide a way for Tier 2 and 3 sports to be televised with higher production values, in a more sustainable way. 

This article first featured in issue 01 of Xtreme.

Stadiums archive

5G networks are promising a whole new model for in-venue experience

Up to now, live sports TV images have been transmitted from wired cameras to the OB truck at the venue, through satellite or fibre to the studio, and onwards to the viewer’s screen.

With 5G mobile communications technology, the path taken by the live picture to the screen can be massively shortened. Images from the camera or smartphone go directly into a virtual studio in the cloud, then to the screen, without detour or prohibitive latency.

In the living room, fans can watch with very little delay and potentially experience new perspectives on the game. Stable networks and guaranteed bandwidths are vital for these advances.

For an in-stadium 5G project to succeed, close collaboration between key stakeholders – mobile network operator, venue owner, rights holder and content provider – is essential. Most importantly, the stadium needs to be fitted out with next-generation 5G infrastructure linking to a mobile edge cloud in 5G, ensuring sufficient bandwidth and stability. 

Many game organisers and venue owners see in-venue apps as a means of striking a balance between the broadcast and in-person experience. With TV constantly improving, some sports fans wonder if a view from the couch is preferable. If more perspectives and apps are available in the stadium, spectators could watch the event from all sides.

Friendly mobile networks

While fans are aware they can interact with games on their phones in the stands, current mobile technology does not facilitate this in a stable manner. Thousands of people simultaneously attempting to access high-quality footage via large mobile networks is just not sustainable. This flurry of activity has the potential to degrade feed quality, leaving streams lagging behind what’s actually happening in the contest itself. 

The key at present is the telco provider. A fully connected ‘5G stadium’ ensures that: (a) images can be transferred directly from live production facilities to fans’ phones; and (b) new possibilities arise for never-before-seen camera angles and AR-driven smartphone apps. 

The main advantage of 5G compared to 4G is capacity; the network’s best use cases are in high-data-demand hotspots such as airports, train stations and sports venues. As general data demands rise, with the amount consumed per customer going up year-on-year, the capacity of 5G will also increase over its lifetime.

Within the sports venue, 5G cameras can be placed in areas inaccessible to manned, wired equipment – such as near the goal netting, on walkways at the top of the stadium, the tunnel from the dressing rooms to the field, and beside team benches. 

Network slicing is a unique feature of 5G, offering increased reliability for live production, especially in congested areas. Using this, you can effectively reserve a piece of the 5G spectrum, so your devices won’t compete with anyone else for bandwidth in that slice.

Such isolation is impossible when data traffic is on a contended network like 4G or Wi-Fi. This becomes a stumbling block in densely populated areas, where thousands may be using the same phone or cell tower at the same time. 

5G also offers the potential of ‘liberated’ production, using ultra low-latency transport. Now, the reality of 5G cameras with vision mixing and live production in the cloud is enabled, with just a laptop.

Fewer crew members need to be at the stadium, with traditional production operated by remote teams, across multiple locations. Needless to say, reducing the air, road and rail travel significantly cuts the carbon footprint of broadcasters and content producers. 

Storytelling perspectives

Last November, Sky Sport in Germany presented a Handball-Bundesliga game between SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Füchse Berlin via O2’s high-end 5G network. This was the first live broadcast in Europe via pure 5G, and the game was also streamed on skysport.de and the Sky Sport YouTube channel.

Sky Deutschland senior vice president of sport production, Alessandro Reitano, told a follow-up webinar hosted by production partner Vizrt: “The handball combines two worlds. We are looking at the evolution of the 5G network and how it can help us contribute and distribute content in a different way. Therefore, 5G in broadcast is needed. This is new – and I’m proud we’ve been able to work with the handball federation.”

In 2020, Sky Deutschland produced a handball match end-to-end with 5G, where 5G was the enabler from a distribution point of view. The team used 12 smartphones in parallel with a traditional broadcast. This lean, flexible set-up enabled them to explore the use of smartphones with a new perspective for storytelling. “We saw that it worked, but the quality was unexpected: not because of 5G, but the smartphones. They are consumer devices,” said Reitano.

“This year, we said, ‘let’s replicate a traditional broadcast in the cloud’, using four broadcast cameras and four smartphones – an eight-camera production, end-to-end. Again, we’re proud to be working with a federation that says, ‘yes, we want to be pioneers by doing something new’. We can produce lower-tier sports to a higher level.

“O2, our 5G operator, provided a dedicated 5G campus network. We saw that, with smartphones, we could create a totally fresh perspective: new angles to engage fans in the stands with live crosses, where they are watching the match.

“Normally,” Reitano continues, “you cannot get such emotions in a live production. Streaming traditional broadcast cameras with LiveU units, a Vizrt NDI production backbone and 5G, we were able to keep the quality level to that of your established broadcast. This was something new and powerful.”

5G Gipfel AR, the augmented reality app of Eyecandylab, provided extra information about the handball match and players from both sides, available for Android and iOS. 

With 5G, we are seeing industries transform. Reimagining live events is a great demonstration of its power. Working together – enabled by high bandwidth and the potential to guarantee that bandwidth – telco providers, federations, stadium owners and content rights holders can unlock advancements for Tier 1 coverage. This can provide a way for Tier 2 and 3 sports to be televised with higher production values, in a more sustainable way. 

This article first featured in issue 01 of Xtreme.

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