5G to re-invent the sporting event experience
Better coverage of live events is a goal of many 5G projects, but there is one aspect of the technical specification that will make it very much easier; an aspect that has been overlooked. Project Vista: Video and Stadia Technical Architecture looks to put that right.
The consortium is led by television industry body Digital TV Group with Rohde & Schwarz, Telefonica UK (O2), Global Wireless Solutions and the Digital Catapult.
The particular technology that Vista will centre around is further-evolved multimedia broadcast & multicast service (FeMBMS). The important word here is “broadcast”. While most mobile and internet communications are one to one, FeMBMS is one to many; it takes a single stream and sends it to multiple users. They all receive the same content at the same time, much as though they were watching live television or listening to radio. It’s a technology that significantly reduces the processing and bandwidth that are needed, so it’s ideal for big events. What makes this really cutting edge is that it will use the network efficiencies to stream live multi-angle high-definition video and interactive content from the event direct to devices in stadia and to other UK locations.
The end goal is to demonstrate consumer demand and deliver the business case to enable 5G-powered sporting events in the near future. This project’s different because it’s using broadcast to deliver content to the mobile handset. In future this service could be exploited by other content providers to reach mobile audiences.
With such a technically ambitious project, the plan is to take things in stages. Initially there will be a test at the Digital Catapult lab in Euston, central London. The second demo is going to be at one of O2’s venues. Then it is hoped that the third phase, which will take place between November 2021 and February 2022, will feature a live sports event. Subject to Covid restrictions, the plan is to be at the rugby at Twickenham where O2 is a sponsor.
5G to enable a personalised TV broadcast service
The driving force of this consortium is the enhancement of live sporting event experiences, through a personalised TV broadcast service. The Digital TV Group (DTG) is the not-for-profit members’ organisation that is made up of the main players in the UK TV industry: TV manufacturers, content providers, broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel Four and ITV, and platform operators such as Sky, Freesat and Freeview. DTG runs working groups and events to set strategy.
Alex Buchan, Strategic Technologist for Spectrum and Security at DTG, told us: “We’re looking at the future distribution of TV and how 5G can play a role in delivering content.”
Rohde & Schwarz is an industry stalwart that will provide broadcast equipment based on 5G standalone and release 17.Samsung is supplying handsets and VR devices to Vista. Significant Samsung 5G R&D is carried out in the UK and the project will be a useful testbed.
Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) measures mobile coverage for operators around the world. While this is often done at a very technical level of propagation and decibels, the company also looks at how the consumer uses the technology. Chief Executive Paul Carter told us: “From the recent surveys that GWS has performed in the UK and US, it’s clear there is still a lot of public confusion about the benefits of 5G. There has been much discussion about 5G offering higher data speeds, but it’s been difficult for the consumer to translate this into something tangible. But with Project Vista we are proposing to change the match-day experience by giving consumers choice over content – which live camera angle they want to see, background information about the teams and more. This can benefit both match attendees but also offer the potential for remote live access. This is just the start of how our everyday experience will be enhanced through 5G.”
Telefonica Chief Technical Officer Brendan O’Reilly (pictured above) said: We are excited to play our part in the development of this ground-breaking initiative; working with industry specialists to create something innovative and exciting that will not only enhance our customers’ experience at sporting events, but will add a whole new dimension to live sports.”
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