Fans at the MK Dons v Ipswich Town game were able to view live streams showing different perspectives of the game, including behind-the-scenes footage
The MK Dons v Ipswich Town match at MK Dons football stadium on Saturday became a test bed for a UK-first 5G broadcast trial aimed a revolutionising in-stadia fan engagement.
The government-backed 5G Vista project made it possible for fans at the stadium to view multiple high-quality streams of the game on their mobile phone, while watching the action on the pitch.
Using a prototype of the 5G Vista app, fans could view six high-quality live streams showing different perspectives of the game, including behind-the-scenes footage.
5G provides stability and consistency of service that isn’t possible with 4G networks, that typically are unable to cope with demand during events with a large number of attendees.
In-stadia mobile connectivity for fans is notoriously weak, with challenges for large sporting venues in providing enough capacity to deliver enhanced spectator experiences at a reasonable cost.
5G broadcast, on the other hand, enables these experiences, and at a cost advantage compared with more traditional cellular solutions.
The 5G Vista partners include Virgin Media O2, Rohde and Schwarz, Digital Television Group, Global Wireless Solutions, Digital Catapult, Ori Industries, Imaginary Pictures, Ateme and the University of Surrey’s 5G/6G Innovation Centre, Microsoft, MK Dons, MK5G and the Open University.
As well as the 5G trial during the MK Dons v Ipswich Town game, the 5G Vista project ran a number of additional events under the MK5G banner, which showcased several applications illustrating how major venues can harness 5G to operate in the future. These included autonomous vehicles for transporting fans to and from the stadium, and AI-enabled traffic control onsite.
The 5G demonstrations also included a drone race organised by the British Drone Racing Association around the MK Dons football pitch, which was filmed from multiple perspectives using the 5G Vista app.
Both 5G Vista and MK5G received funding from the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport to boost live events using 5G. 5G Vista was backed by £1.3 million, with a further £1 million contributed by partners.
Alex Buchan, strategic technologist, Digital Television Group and project lead, said: “DTG, through the Vista project, is proud to be leading the TV industry into a new phase of interactive, personalised and live content driven by 5G for access anywhere, anytime. The trial at MK Dons shows the technology developed during the project has the potential to transform the way we consume content, and experience live events, over the coming decade.”
Digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez, added: “5G has the power to further fans’ enjoyment of live sports in stadiums while helping broadcasters to improve their live output. I’m delighted that this trial is the latest in a long list of cutting-edge tests we’ve funded through our £200 million programme to use 5G to drive economic growth and improve people’s lives.”
David Owens, head of technical trials at Virgin Media O2, said: “This event marks the culmination of a lot of hard but very rewarding work with some fantastic partners. We’re thrilled to bring 5G Vista to life at a MK Dons game, showcasing the technologies to real fans and watching their reactions was fantastic. We’re excited about the future possibilities of this 5G-powered technology for fan experiences in-stadium and at home.”
Kostas Katsaros, lead 5G technologist, Digital Catapult added: “Working on 5G Vista has been a fantastic journey – from early tests in our 5G labs, to a preliminary showcase at the O2 Blueroom in September, and now streaming a football match and drone racing at a real sports stadium. The project shows that taking spectator experiences to the next level using 5G broadcast is a very real possibility, and I can’t wait to see what exciting developments are ahead for audiences, events venues, marketers, artists and sports teams.”