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5G gets the ball rolling with new ways to experience football matches

01/12/2022

The digital transformation and other developments in tech have already radically changed how we experience sporting events. You probably still remember the moment when VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology started being used in the premier leagues. Now the newest wireless networking technology, 5G, is bringing fresh innovations at the speed of light – quite literally! So it’s not surprising that football stadiums are keen to explore 5G’s potential. Leading the pack is the Cegeka Arena in Belgium, home ground of KRC Genk, which has become the very first 5G stadium in the country, spotlighting the potential of 5G technology to millions of fans.

INTERACTIVE FOOTBALL MATCHES FOR SPECTATORS

Football fans don’t crowd into the stadium just to watch the match. They come for an experience. How can stadiums involve everyone in the stands? How can they ensure spectators experience the buzz of being there, all the way to the very back row?

Livestreaming is one of the best ways to bring an up-close experience of the match to everyone watching, and is an important use case for 5G in stadiums. The stadium can stream the match over 5G directly to the spectators’ smartphones. This way, fans get a close-range view of the action on the pitch, regardless of where they’re seated. Of course, stadiums have already been streaming video over WiFi or 4G networks for some time, but these technologies inevitably suffer from lag. Video transmitted over a 5G network, on the other hand, arrives instantly. In football, a single second can make all the difference – and with the new technology, nobody need miss it!

Another way stadiums can benefit from 5G is the chance to experiment with new camera angles. Connecting cameras directly to the 5G network means you can cut out the cabling, and therefore install cameras in places that were previously hard to access or otherwise impractical. Fans get fresh angles on the match, helping to build the quality of the experience. Spectators in the stadium can also rewatch footage from difference angles, to take in the details of every pass, tackle or goal. And the new camera angles aren’t just great for the fans in the stadium – people watching from their sofa benefit too.

New 5G technologies go hand in hand with augmented reality, and that’s something else that football stadiums can turn to their advantage. With augmented reality, football matches can be more interactive and immersive. After all, spectators in the stadium traditionally don’t have access to all the information that’s presented on the television, where regular updates flash up on the screen with statistics about possession or the number of passes on each side. Now this data can be added for spectators at the match, using augmented reality to add an extra virtual ‘layer’ over the streamed video going out to smartphones. The extra layer carries match statistics and details about individual players and their performance. Augmented reality is also an amazing opportunity for stadiums to attract younger fans who have grown up with FIFA video games and for whom this concept is second nature.

BETTER PERFORMANCE FOR FOOTBALL CLUBS

Can 5G actually improve player performance? It might not seem obvious at first, but the answer is: yes! There are all kinds of ways trainers and football clubs are using 5G to hone performance. For example, players can use wearables and other sensors to track their physical condition and log heart rate, breathing and even monitor injuries. Sensors can also record data about how the player is moving and thus provide additional insights into the match itself. For example, how many steps does it take Player A to cover a particular distance? What is the maximum speed of Player B? How often and where on the pitch does Player C collide with other players? Sensors can give fast, reliable answers to this kind of question.

All this data is invaluable for coaches, sports medics and other people who work with the team. Some information can be used in real time, other data is analysed later. Coaches can use the outputs from wearables and sensors to make better, more objective decisions driven by data. Analysing this information on a per-player basis and comparing it with previous performance can help spot problems early and identify the most important training focuses.

EXTENDED NETWORK CAPACITY FOR STADIUMS

Stadiums have such huge seating capacity that they present real challenges for traditional networks. With thousands of people piling onto the network simultaneously to make calls, send text messages, share their photos and videos, etc., the network capacity required is huge. Stadiums with a powerful 5G network, dubbed ‘connected stadiums’, are ahead of the game here. It’s important to remember that the network isn’t just for connecting spectators. A certain amount of capacity needs to be kept available for stadium staff and emergencies. Network slicing is an efficient way to divide up the network precisely and ensure that the capacity works for the needs of the individual stadium.

Of course, the uses of 5G aren't limited to the action on the pitch. Other activities at the stadium can also be supported by the ultra-fast network: parking, access control, food and drink stands, etc. What’s more, these networks can be scaled easily in order to extend coverage and increase capacity.

Are you interested in Citymesh 5G? Read more.

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