Covid-19 has had a massive impact on sport, to the point where physical events were shut down. But that did not stop the 5G network growing to one day take over. The global pandemic, instead of a drawback, has been an opportunity to prepare stadiums for the day that fans can return and enjoy live sports together once more.
What is 5G?
In telecommunications, 5G is the “fifth generation” technology standard for broadband cellular networks. Cellular companies, like EE, began deploying this in 2019 and is the planned “successor” to the 4G (fourth generation) networks which provide connectivity to most current mobile devices.
How will 5G transform sports?
In the sporting industry, attracting younger fans is vital to continue return of investment. When it comes to watching live sports, television is the preferred platform for viewing, and is used by 40% of viewers, followed by desktops and smartphones. 5G plays a crucial role in the transformation of fan experiences delivered by the sports and media industries. 5G can enhance the fan experience of sports in 3 ways:
Improve the live experience for fans at venues:
Currently, service providers like Tesco Mobile and Vodafone offer 4G on existing data plans, and venue owners add wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) capacity on an annual basis to meet traffic growth. 5G makes these two look desolate. 5G will allow us to share experiences with live videos in a faster way because of quicker data download and upload speeds on social media, access a personal jumbotron (or the best seats in the house) to complement assigned seats, and will allow us to access TV-like graphics on a device at a venue to access statistics and alternative audio as ways to augment the live experience. Offering speed up to ten times faster than the current 4G, greater capacity and much lower latency, the potential for 5G is endless. There will be more opportunities to capture more camera angles and view real-time match data while improving broadcasting economics.
Bringing fans watching from home closer to the action:
Watching sport from home doesn’t quite have the same atmosphere as watching live, because you’re staring at a flat screen and not getting the full atmosphere of the stadium. However, 5G has changed the game. 5G can add new camera angles, pre and post-game contributions from athletes and reporters roaming among fans, which will allow you to get a real audience perspective of the game, making it feel like you’re actually there, footage from fan-tographers (a fan doubling as a photographer, capturing vibes from among fans at the venue) and extend live coverage to middle and minor league sports. One thing to consider is that people’s attention span is shorter, especially in the sports industry: because there are so many sports options across so many screens, sports fans of all ages are clicking away from low-stakes or games that aren’t going so well. To match this, 5G is also able to introduce short summaries of games, considered to be “brief episodes” filmed by athletes from their practice, preparation, and private lives. This will mean that viewers and other fans can share their experiences on a relatable level and see what life is like from an athlete’s perspective.
Experience-centric sports districts:
In the past, the focus of events had been on the fan experience at competition venues. However, recently this has slowly changed to the development of new districts around practice grounds for professional sports, implementing 5G connectivity. Things that we can expect to find in these experience fundamentals include a teams’ hall of fame to go beyond game-worn kits and pictures into full-fledged multimedia experiences, dedicated sport medicine hospitals, retail, and restaurants to extend visits into full-day experiences and athletes to practice with video recording and analysis of extensive data sets. A lot of athletes and teams are data driven already (for example, American Football players have sensors in their shoulder pads to track speed, position etc.), however the next step would be to introduce video at high resolution, combined with artificial intelligence. This will allow coaches and trainers to see details that weren’t visible to the human eye. In 2019, 5G played a role in race practice to give drivers feedback for the next lap instead of the next day. Have these experience based sport districts will allow fans to get closer to the athletes and get the “customer” experience that they are looking for from an event.
The 5G journey to transform fan experience is just beginning, and it has already started for the largest global sports and their events. Once the pandemic is over, and venues begin to open back up again, 5G can really be put to the test and implemented into the sporting world to make that digital difference, improving fan experiences from the stadium and from the sofa.