The idea behind the ‘5G Multiview’ app is that Sky Sport subscribers in the crowd can enjoy the atmosphere of the stadium while still having access to all the features of the broadcaster’s live coverage, thereby enhancing their matchday experience.
The app was deployed during last weekend’s clash between RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund, offering viewers up to five different camera angles, allowing them to analyse the events they’ve just seen.
In-venue applications are viewed by many sports organisations and venue operators as a way to narrow the gap between the broadcast and in-person experience. As the quality of television and digital broadcasts increases, there are concerns that some fans might prefer to stay at home unless they can enjoy the same features at the stadium.
While it is already possible to watch on a smartphone while sitting in the stands, existing mobile technologies are ill-suited for the task. Current generation mobile networks become congested if tens of thousands of fans are watching high-quality video at the same time, while the high level of latency associated with traditional telecoms architecture means streams are behind the action on the field of play.
Sky and Vodafone solve these issues by using 5G connectivity powered by high-band 26GHz frequencies that offer ultrafast speeds, huge capacity and ultra-low latency. Vodafone is the first operator in Germany to use the frequencies and promises speeds of 2.6 gigabits per second (Gbps) and latency of less than ten milliseconds.
The Bundesliga has already partnered with Vodafone to ensure 5G is available in all of its clubs’ stadiums, meaning images can be sent from the live production facilities to Sky’s mobile transmission unit and then directly to fans’ handsets. This means fans can see a goal in the flesh and watch a replay on their device without missing anything on the pitch.
Vodafone has also used its in-stadium 5G networks to trial applications that superimpose live data graphics using AR technology.
“We marry emotions in the stadium with information from the digital world,” said Vodafone Germany chief executive Hannes Ametsreiter.
“Our [26GHz] 5G and on-site data processing [capabilities] in the stadium bring camera perspectives that stadium visitors would otherwise only see on TV in the evening, directly on their smartphones. Lovers of detail in the stands can see the game-defining scenes from every angle and never miss a goal.”
Vodafone’s German rival O2 has also achieved a 5G milestone in the past week, using the technology to broadcast a top-flight handball match between Flensburg and Füchse Berlin. Many within the broadcast industry hope 5G will make it cheaper and easier to produce live events and increase creative freedom by reducing the need for fixed infrastructure.