5G: Reimagining Live Sports

Brendan O’Reilly, CTO, O2

There is something quintessentially British about watching live sport. Whether it’s cheering on our beloved football team from the stands, watching England at Twickenham or supporting Andy Murray in Wimbledon, us Brits cannot get enough.

Sport is an occasion capable of bringing us together like nothing else. In fact, data from our network in the past year has continued to highlight sport’s significance to the nation. As social distancing closed stadium doors, we saw data traffic spikes coinciding with key sporting moments for the country, including the end of the Premier League and the Champions League final.

While we hope that one day soon sports venues will be able to welcome back fans en masse, next-generation connectivity already has the potential to reshape how fans experience live sports, including from afar.

Our belief in the potential of that connectivity is why we’re proud to be part of the government funded VISTA (Video In Stadia Technical Architecture) project. A project that will develop a 5G mobile based platform to broadcast events in stadiums and other venues across the UK.

Testing and demonstrating the benefits of 5G broadcast FeMBMS (further enhanced multimedia broadcast multicast service) technology, the project aims to deliver more content to fans via a greater number of channels. And that content will be interactive too.

The arena experience has gone largely unchanged since inception and 5G has the power to change that. Not only will this mean fans in the stadiums get a richer experience, it opens up the potential for more enhanced remote live access. Something that is particularly relevant while social distancing measures remain in place.

It would be incredible to experience the same atmosphere without being at the event. While the use cases are still being defined, the potential is huge. Imagine choosing the camera angle you want to watch in real time while also watching multiple venues simultaneously.

Not only are we focused on how 5G can change the viewing experience, the project will demonstrate how 5G broadcast can reduce carbon footprint by reducing the number of base stations and the amount of spectrum needed to deliver content to mass audiences. As a network committed to being carbon neutral by 2025, being part of projects like this is hugely important.

Of course, building something this innovative and exciting requires collaboration. We’ll be working closely with Digital TV Group, Rohde & Schwarz, Digital Catapult and Global Wireless Solutions, to help make the VISTA project a reality and bring fresh content to thousands of fans.

As we look ahead to Britain’s post-pandemic recovery, we must explore the role of 5G and technology to boost the economy and get us back to doing what we enjoy most. It’s mobile that will get Britain back on its feet, and projects and innovation like this that will help shape the future of sports and entertainment. I look forward to seeing this project bring a new and exciting dimension to live sport.