Immersive experiences in sports with 5G

July 12, 2021 | 07:00
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Service providers are looking to deliver improved and immersive experiences to satisfy consumers’ heightened enthusiasm and expectations of exciting new 5G-enabled services and enhanced mobile broadband. Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, delves into how 5G stadiums will revolutionise the experience, bringing a real-time, immersive experience to fans at the venue and beyond.
Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos
Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos

Some people watch sports, and others live it. Whether they are cheering on their home team at the stadium or watching the game on their supersized TVs at home, fans want unlimited access to enjoy their favourite entertainment.

In its Sport Survey for 2020, PwC interviewed a group of industry leaders about their perceptions of key opportunities for the sports market. Three major opportunities were highlighted. First was an enhanced digital media experience, the second was creation and monetisation of digital assets, and third was 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 can advance the sports fans’ experience with more immersive experiences. It is an opportunity to pull in bigger crowds at venues and bring stadiums and arenas closer to fans at home. It is also a business projected to generate $83 billion in revenues by 2023 in the US alone.

There are already some examples of how operators in different parts of the globe have changed the in-venue experiences of sports fans through 5G. One is through Ericsson being a primary business partner for implementing Ooredoo’s 5G infrastructure. Playing a vital role in Ooredoo’s roadmap to 5G, Ericsson brought world-class expertise and technologies to the forefront to illustrate the immersive possibilities of connected 5G realities.

Al Janoub Stadium in Qatar was equipped with 5G capabilities to give fans a glimpse into the enriched experiences 5G can bring while watching the Amir Cup Final. The immersive sports demo was live broadcasted to a virtual stadium at the Mall of Qatar, where consumers experienced the VR and immersive experience of the match remotely. Here, an immersive 5G experience ran simultaneously for the full match in a virtual stadium in the mall. Paired with high bandwidth, this enabled viewers to enjoy a real-time streaming experience that rivalled the quality and scalability of streaming resolution through conventional media.

In another example, during the 2019/2020 German football league season, DFL developed a new immersive AR application for fans. The application provides images, statistics, and match analysis as an AR overlay in real-time. In the future, the application will show granular data about players and their performance

In the United States, the 2021 edition of the Super Bowl elevated fans’ live experience with its 5G network. The event’s immersive experience enabled interactive viewing, and 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.

Verizon unveiled a range of 5G-powered features for the Super Bowl, designed to elevate the fan experience for those watching the event at home or at Raymond James Stadium. The in-venue solutions aimed to deliver immersive and interactive viewing, including through the 5G Super Stadium in the National Football League app. This enabled iPhone 12 users to engage with seven different camera angles while in the stadium or five angles from home, and they were able to project AR overlays of player stats.

With AR applications, spectators can have access to real-time analysis, video playback, goal-line technology, and can even hear what the referee is saying to players or the line judges. In fact, with 5G the spectator in the stadium may get an even richer experience than the viewer at home.

A new report by Ericsson ConsumerLab called ‘Five Ways to a Better 5G’ highlights the impact that it is already having on smartphone users worldwide and what they expect the technology to deliver in the future. Indoor coverage is one of the focus areas to emerge from consumer research, with one-in-five 5G users already reducing Wi-Fi use on their phones indoors because of the benefits of 5G mobile connectivity.

In addition to reducing Wi-Fi use, early adopter 5G users also spend an average of two hours more on cloud gaming and one hour more on AR apps per week compared to 4G users. While 5G-powered VR headsets are not commercially available yet, and most usage is on Wi-Fi, 5G users already seem to be spending more time using VR content compared to 4G users.

Immersive video, which includes AR and VR, already contributes to 20 per cent of total time spent by 5G users on digital services. Service providers together with other ecosystem players globally are trying to accelerate the development of digital services to meet consumer needs, thereby also serving to unlock the full revenue potential of 5G.

Closer to home, in ongoing 5G trials in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, we have demonstrated the high speeds and low latency of 5G to customers in Vietnam. Enhanced mobile broadband will be the initial use case of 5G for consumers, as well as more advanced 5G use cases like enhanced video (4K, 8K, and formats like 360-degree video) ​for live sports streaming​. We also see AR/VR​, consumer Internet of Things services, and In-car entertainment and connectivity to be introduced once 5G is extensively launched in Vietnam in 2022 and beyond.

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