Bringing an immersive sports experience to life with 5G

April 27, 2022 | 21:00
Fans across the world increasingly want an unlimited, uninterrupted, and immersive experience to enjoy their favourite sports, whether they are cheering for their team at a stadium or watching a live game on their TV sets. And the love for sports has not diminished, despite lockdowns. Instead, it has been an opportunity to prepare stadiums for the day fans return in large numbers as they are looking to get more out of their game experience, especially with 5G being rolled out across markets.
Bringing an immersive sports experience to life with 5G
Denis Brunetti - President in Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, Ericsson

According to a report on five ways to better 5G, by Ericsson Consumer Lab, the technology is already beginning to trigger new behaviours. The report also states that in addition to reducing Wi-Fi use globally, 5G early adopters are also spending an average of two hours more on cloud gaming and one hour more on AR apps per week compared to 4G users.

Fans today are not just interested in watching the game but also keen to engage more with the event with live stats about their favourite teams/players, the venue, weather forecasts, live chats, and more. Better Internet connectivity has given a big fillip to sports watching in countries across the globe. With 5G-enabled services, this is set to increase multifold as next-gen technology will deliver an enhanced mobile broadband experience.

If you are in a stadium watching a live game with players that are far off in the distance, you might want something closer to home to understand what is happening on the field. An example of this already in use is Verizon 5G Multi-View. Verizon has now implemented its 5G ultra-wideband network in more than 70 US stadiums and sports venues. Instead of having an experience pushed to fans, with 5G Multi-View fans can change how they experience the game and can fully personalise it.

The Multi-View solution needs massive bandwidth and low latency. And in stadiums with 5G, Verizon can offer seven streams of HD video to a smartphone, allowing fans to control the angle they want to watch and rewind the video feeds to see instant replays.

5G not only has the ability to improve how we watch the game but also how we watch the players. We will be able to see how a player moves, how they handle the ball or racket and analyse the likelihood of an injury. Further, this real-time sports analysis can influence whole teams and their strategies. It can allow teams and coaches to make educated and informed decisions based on this next level of data they have access to.

In its Sports Survey for 2020, PwC interviewed a group of industry leaders on their perceptions of key opportunities for the sports market and the three major opportunities that emerged were enhanced digital media experience; creation and monetisation of digital assets; and innovation in media rights packaging and distribution. Sports events businesses working with service providers could capitalise on industry trends including digital applications, video on demand and engaging immersive experiences such as AR and VR.

5G will revolutionise the stadium experience in Vietnam, bringing a real-time immersive experience to fans at the venue and outside. It will also open revenue opportunities for service provider revenues by not only enabling services that improve the live experience for fans at venues but also bringing fans at home much closer to the game.

There are other recent examples where operators in different parts of the globe have changed the in-venue experiences of sports fans through 5G. Ooredoo Qatar brought an immersive sports experience to fans with 5G services during the Amir Cup Final. The Al Janoub Stadium in South Qatar was equipped with 5G capabilities to give fans a glimpse into the enriched experiences 5G can bring while watching live sport. The immersive sports demo was broadcast live to a virtual stadium at the Mall of Qatar where consumers experienced the VR and immersive experience of the match remotely.

During the 2019/2020 German Football League season, DFL developed a new immersive AR application. The application provides images, statistics, and match analysis as an AR overlay in real-time, and in the future, the application will show granular data about players and their performance.

Elsewhere, the Super Bowl 2021 elevated fans’ live experience with its 5G network. Phone users could engage with different camera angles while in the stadium or from home. They were also able to project AR overlays when they pointed their devices at their favourite players on the field.

Fans are eager to have an in- and out-of-stadium experience with before, during, and post-event streaming and video-on-demand services. According to the Ericsson Consumer Lab report, immersive video, which includes AR and VR, already contributes to 20 per cent of total time spent by 5G users on digital services globally. Service providers, together with other ecosystem players, are trying to accelerate the development of digital services to meet consumer needs while, at the same time, trying to unlock the full revenue potential of 5G.

At ConsumerLab and IndustryLab, research revealed – even a few years back – that half of the world’s smartphone users expect us all to be wearing AR glasses by 2025. And according to Ericsson’s latest 10 Hot Consumer Trends report, 55 per cent of consumers want to visit a museum that uses advanced AR/VR technology to recreate historic events, making them feel as if they are there in person.

With the demand there, this evolution could translate to sports experiences in the long term. In the future, every seat will be the best seat in the house through immersive technology, which will bridge the current gap between the stadium and the home experience.

By Denis Brunetti

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