UK-first 5G broadcast trials at MK Dons football stadium set to revolutionise fan experience

A landmark project using 5G broadcast technology to supercharge the way fans interact with live sport has been piloted at a major sporting event.

The group behind 5G VISTA - a government-backed consortium using 5G technologies to deepen audience engagement, broaden content for fans and create valuable new commercial opportunities - completed a successful trial at a live football match at the 30,400-seat MK Dons football stadium.

A group of lucky fans at the match between MK Dons and Ipswich Town on 12th February were able to try out a prototype of the 5G VISTA app. This allowed them to view six, high-quality live streams of different perspectives of the game - including behind the scenes footage - with the tap of a screen.

Not only does 5G broadcast technology allow spectators to get even closer to the action at live events; it has the potential to offer solutions to a number of pain points experienced by broadcasters and TV crews at events venues and stadiums.

This includes overcoming challenges associated with cabling and network complexity, and unstable 4G networks 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 allows these experiences at a cost advantage compared with more traditional cellular solutions.

Alex Buchan, Strategic Technologist, DTG 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 said:

"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."

The completion of the technical trial was followed by a final showcase of the project on 14th February as part of the MK5G Create event in the Marshall Arena, also at Stadium MK.

5G VISTA partners including Virgin Media O2, Rohde and Schwarz, DTG, GWS, Digital Catapult, Ori Industries, Imaginary Pictures, Ateme and the University of Surrey’s 5G/6G Innovation Centre joined sporting, tech and broadcast giants such as Microsoft, MK Dons, MK5G and the Open University to discuss business cases for live events solutions powered by 5G Broadcast.

MK5G showcased several groundbreaking applications illustrating how major venues can harness 5G to operate in the future, including autonomous vehicles for transporting fans to and from the stadium, and AI-enabled traffic control onsite.

These demonstrations included an exhilarating drone race around the MK Dons football pitch - filmed from multiple perspectives using the 5G VISTA app, as the final milestone of the 5G VISTA project. This constituted the world’s first drone race broadcast in high definition, sponsored by Virgin Media O2 and organised by the British Drone Racing Association.

Both 5G VISTA and MK5G had 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.

David Owens, Head of Technical Trials at Virgin Media O2:

“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 said:

“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.”

Dr Haitham Cruickshank from the University of Surrey's 5G/6G Innovation Centre said:

"This landmark pilot is just a glimpse of how 5G will transform how we all consume live events such as football matches. For the 5G/6G Innovation Centre, it was an opportunity to showcase our end-to-end security capabilities that are the foundations that could allow thousands of people to share live experiences in unique ways.

"We will soon add this multicast/broadcast security into our world-leading testbed in Guildford."

Douglas Mancini, CCO, Ori Industries:

“The 5G VISTA project has highlighted the transformative opportunities for edge computing deployments and future network capabilities in real-time commercial settings. This new technology is changing the way people experience live events and we’re pleased to have been involved in this transformation.”

Surrey paves the way for secure multicast communications

As part of the government-backed 5G VISTA programme, Surrey’s 5G/6GIC is devising new ways of connecting to enable enhanced viewing experiences direct to users’ mobile devices.

When thousands of users need to connect to a single source of content – such as to see multi-angle views of the action at a live sporting event – this presents technical challenges in terms of quality of service, network flooding and maintaining security.

The University’s 5G/6G Innovation Centre (5G/6GIC), part of the Institute for Communication Systems (ICS), is bringing its expertise in mobile and satellite communications to develop and test a lightweight security system, DTLS (Datagram Transport Layer Security) within the 5G VISTA project. This technology will not only address the challenge of stadia broadcasts, but also help to gear up for a future in which almost all communications are streamed.

5G VISTA (Video in Stadia Technical Architecture), which runs until March 2022, aims to transform how fans experience live events, using 5G broadcast technology to deliver exciting new ways of engaging with events straight to their mobile device. A major milestone of the project will be a live football match at the MK Dons football stadium on 12 February when the 5G VISTA app will be trialled, allowing fans to view multiple, high quality livestreams of different perspectives of the game.

Along with Surrey (as the only academic partner), the 5G VISTA consortium includes leading broadcast and telecom partners DTG, Virgin Media O2, Rohde & Schwarz Ateme, Digital Catapult, GWS, Imaginary Pictures and Ori Industries.

Surrey’s specific role within 5G VISTA is to enable and test secure connections – between the streaming server/camera and multicast equipment provided by Rohde & Schwarz, and between the content provider and multiple mobile devices – on the 5G testbed. The testbed is now unique in the UK in offering broadcast capability and will provide a vital resource for testing future applications.

Dr Haitham Cruickshank, leading the project within 5G/6GIC, said: “While 5G VISTA focuses on stadia events, secure multicasting and DTLS will have uses at other large-scale events such as Formula 1 races. The technology could also be applied in emergency communications such as when an earthquake occurs and destroys infrastructure, where a secure multicast capability would enable first responders to communicate in a secure and timely way.

“Multicasting could be the future, as normal television disappears. The users will stream everything via the mobile network rather than a separate broadcast network. With our expertise in satellites and the broadcast capability we have introduced to Surrey’s 5G testbed, the ICS is well-placed to help the UK capitalise on this exciting next chapter in communications.”

Stadium MK is just the start for 5G VISTA and sports fans

When a small group of lucky fans sit down to watch MK Dons vs. Ipswich Town on Saturday 12th February 2022, they will not only enjoy the atmosphere within Stadium MK but also a totally new way of experiencing a live match.

As well as the live action, they will be able to watch six different streams, offering different camera angles and behind the scenes footage, all on a mobile handset. Spoilt for choice – maybe, but this live user and technical trial is the culmination of the 5G VISTA project, which the DTG and the rest of our project partners hope will be just the start for 5G broadcast technology and sports fans.

5G VISTA was set up in January 2020 as part of the DCMS’s 5G Create programme, with the aim of testing and demonstrating the consumer benefits, technical feasibility, and business case for using 5G broadcast technology to deliver enhanced experiences at live sporting events. By delivering content from one source to many users, rather than one to one, the technology can deliver a richer live experience that will include: multi-angle views of the action; views from areas that cannot be seen; and additional information about the event.

According to our research, most fans going to live sporting events (77%) already use their smartphones, and many welcomed the idea of what an app based on the VISTA technology could deliver; one concluded: “To be at the heart of the action at a live event is amazing. The app sounds very exciting, and I would definitely use it.”  So, after 12 months in development and testing, the technology will now be trialled with those pilot fans at Stadium MK.

The VISTA project team have worked closely with MK Dons to carry out the trial, and deploy this exciting technology at a live sporting event for the first time.

Four new cameras will be positioned around the stadium, to add to the existing live feed, providing different angles and perspectives, allowing the fans to get much closer to the action. In addition, special behind-the-scenes footage will give a unique insight into the players and team, away from the pitch.

The technical side of the trial is paramount, but so is how our group of trailblazing fans react to the experience and help shape project progress. The live trial may be the culmination of many hours of development and testing over the past year, by all the VISTA partners, but is in fact just the beginning of a fantastic innovation that could revolutionise the way fans experience live sport.

Outside of the stadium environment, this technology could be used wherever fans cannot see all the action from their static position – e.g. motor sport, golf, multi-sport events – keeping them right there, where the action is. The opportunities are endless…

We hope it captures the fans’ imaginations, as well as the imagination of rights-owners, venues, broadcasters, and mobile network operators. After all, it is they who will be able to fully develop and apply this technology at scale, redefining the fan experience for millions of their loyal supporters.

In five years’ time it would be great to look back at that Saturday afternoon at Stadium MK knowing it was the moment the live fan experience was changed forever.

GWS – Initial Consumer Research Insights

GWS’s primary task in Project VISTA is to assist in determining and demonstrating consumer interest and potential business opportunities to enable 5G-powered live-streaming at sporting and music events across the UK. In general, GWS recruits from a range of demographics and asks consumers about their habits and interests (i.e., gather feedback on what they like, what they don’t like, how often they attend events and which one, how much they would pay for such a service, and more).

In the early stages of the project GWS conducted both consumer focus group research and a nationwide market research survey.  Below are three key findings:

1.  Most people already use their phones to enhance their live event experience. According to GWS’s survey, the majority of consumers that go to live events typically use their smartphones at the event (76% of those attending music events and 77% at sporting events) with taking photos and videos, messaging, and voice calls being the most used functions.

2. Consumer feedback from GWS’s research presents an encouraging picture for an experience enhancing app that is based on VISTA technology - over a third of sports and music fans who regularly attend live events said they would be interested in using such an app. In addition, the Project VISTA team is currently working with various business leaders to test a variety of potential commercial models for the technology, which will be instrumental in determining consumer response to a final product.

3. Despite the pandemic, GWS’s data shows that there is still a strong appetite for the live experience of music and sports events. Amongst music and sports fans with smartphones, 96% and 95% attend live events, respectively. And the majority of those going to live events typically buy something at the event (87% of those attending music events and 88% attending sporting events) illustrating the continued commercial potential of feature enhancements within the live entertainment industry.

It is worth noting that GWS’s initial round of market research was conducted during the project’s early stages where consumers expressed their level of interest based simply on a description of the proposed concept. As the project matures and we are better able to demonstrate the technology’s benefits, consumer interest is expected to increase.

The recipe for 5G Broadcast success: 5 tips from industry experts

As a technologist and sports fan, there isn’t much that excites me more than 5G and its power to completely transform attendee experience at live events.

5G Broadcast can unlock experiences to create an innovative dimension to live events that will not only enhance customer experience, but also increase channels of engagement. The opportunities here are vast, but there are several challenges to confront before the potential of 5G broadcast technology for live events can fully be realised.

Testing out 5G Broadcast

As part of 5G VISTA, part of Digital Catapult’s work has involved holding workshops with esteemed broadcasters, sports teams and venue managers - from Arsenal and Live Nation, to BT and the BBC. Presenting different use cases to them, we picked their brains on how something like VISTA could benefit industry and got their perspectives on potential different business models for VISTA.

Here were 5 key takeaways from our industry experts:

  1. Distributed sports events

Sports or events where you cannot see all the action from one position have a more obvious appeal. Take cricket matches, golf or motor racing as an example; a multi-angle app could allow spectators to get a better view of the action that’s about to take place – whether that’s following their favourite F1 driver round the track, or following different golfers playing on different holes.

“I can absolutely see people jumping on their phones to see certain angles or replays in sports that are punctuated by breaks - like cricket or motor racing.”

Workshop attendee

  1. A customer-first approach

An app like VISTA is first and foremost targeted at the consumer, and adoption is entirely reliant on positive consumer engagement.

Focus should be on augmenting and improving a live experience, rather than detracting. Elements such as live statistics or access to backstage interviews could offer something additional to enhance in-stadia events.

“You need to find the right moments, the right environments where the technology actually compliments and adds something to the experience, rather than detracts from it.”

Workshop attendee

  1. Doing away with cabling

Cabling and wifi are a key pain point in large stadium sports, such as football. Despite 3 of 4 Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) offering 4G coverage in large football stadiums, many networks can become unstable on match days.

5G Broadcast has the potential to offer a solution here, as a large number of users access the same content at the same time. You can also deploy a smaller number of antennae to cover large areas, minimising the cabling and network complexity, and potentially offering the same services in smaller venues.

“If football clubs can find a technology that allows stadiums to move away from cabling, it could be incredibly beneficial.”

Workshop attendee

  1. One-to-many broadcasting

A challenge is promoting the value of 5G Broadcast over alternative technologies, such as unicast, to network operators, service providers and application developers.

While most mobile and internet communications are ‘one to one’, 5G Broadcast 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, in this case, to a mobile handset or a smart TV.

5G Broadcast allows mobile operators can use their scarce spectrum more efficiently, and is able to support SIM-less devices, thus expanding the range of supported end users.

  1. Ownership of content

In spite of the consumer benefits of VISTA, our experts acknowledged complications in terms of rights management and ownership of content. Taking football as an example, the Premier League owns the rights to all games.

As such, a project like VISTA should explore opportunities that focus on broadcasting to attendees at and during the event itself. Meanwhile, any new broadcast service should work in tandem with existing business partners and commercial agreements.

Looking ahead

A technically ambitious project such as VISTA is essential to get right, and the broadcast space is complex both from a legal and technological standpoint.

However, working together with other market-leading experts, we’re helping to further develop the device and network ecosystem to support 5G broadcast, and deliver seamless experiences to end-users.

5G Broadcast/Multicast and the future of media delivery – a Rohde & Schwarz perspective

It is quite clear that the mobile telecommunications era is here to stay. As part of our everyday lives, a world without mobile phones is difficult to imagine. The ease of communications has changed and is still changing the entire way we do things. Despite the good times, today’s increases in data traffic and network complexity are leading to continuously growing operator Capex and Opex which in turn make it challenging for mobile network operators (MNOs) to bring this “present day miracle” to their subscribers.

Rohde & Schwarz believes the one-to-many distribution approach is the right solution to address the technical and business challenges of network operators. 5G broadcast/multicast allows MNOs to offload their premium content on the move, whether it is live/linear video/audio or even file based content, while reaching broader audiences and consistently delivering broadcast quality experiences. For this to happen a solution is needed that is capable of handling a continuous flow of content while maintaining a congestion-free mobile network and avoiding infrastructure overprovisioning. Incidentally, this also significantly lowers the CAPEX and OPEX burdens.

5G clearly holds the promise of new and original technological and business opportunities. In fact, 5G is bringing new broadcast and multicast capabilities to the whole ecosystem, enabling new applications. Although live video distribution is very important, 5G broadcast/multicast does not only mean mobile TV or video delivery while on the move, although this is one of the more entertaining and interesting examples.

5G is not only capable of delivering media and entertainment to smartphones, it can also provide smart vehicles with OTA updates, media and entertainment as well as map updates and live event multicasting makes perfect sense when using this feature.

Public safety announcements can be guaranteed with fast and efficient delivery using 5G broadcast and we have seen examples of extreme weather events just this year where a service such as urgent weather updates could make a real and tangible difference to the relationship between communities and public authorities.

Several other services could be optimized using multicast over 5G, including OTA multicast for centralized configuration and control, live commerce, and rural eLearning where no internet connection is available. In addition, 5G multicast enables venue casting to combine live experience with home comfort.

Broadcast network operators are discovering new distribution features and a more dynamic infrastructure with the opportunity that 5G Broadcast is creating. In addition, mobile network operators are able to offload their burdensome streaming and data loads and therefore avoid overprovisioning of infrastructure. The end result is that they can serve consumers with a higher quality of service (QoS) while reducing both Capex and Opex.

Sending information hundreds of thousands of time to mobile network cells is less efficient than broadcasting/multicasting that same information via an overlay network. 5G Broadcast/multicast offers a wider coverage and spectrum efficiency with the resulting improved flexibility deployment and operation costs can be substantially reduced.

In today’s world consumers expect and deserve higher quality when they receive high definition (HD) and ultra-high definition (UHD) resolutions as well as the better picture quality offered by high dynamic range (HDR). 5G Broadcast/multicast offers the opportunity to deliver a better quality of service and a higher quality of experience to the end consumer.

Rohde & Schwarz works extensively on new technical concepts and business models and has been pioneering how 5G Broadcast/multicast redefines the future of content delivery. At the end of the day we could all enjoy better connectivity, better information updates and a more enjoyable experience while watching content while on the move.

Case Study: How Ori helps facilitate the 5G VISTA project


The Video in Stadia Technical Architecture (VISTA) Project is a collection of Telecom and technology vendors, including Ori, providing a live interactive experience on mobile devices for event spectators. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate the ability to deploy a 5G-powered sporting event broadcast to deliver enhanced and personalised viewing experiences direct to mobile devices.

Ori Global Edge powers a multi-access edge computing (MEC) environment fully integrated with the 5G network hosting the broadcast video compression engine and associated secondary applications such as streaming analytics.

Key Issues for Ori

•          Application orchestration across a 5G network with independent components

•          Management of a MEC environment with next generation telco service

•          Cost efficient and expandable service


The VISTA Project envisions a new, low cost architecture approach with “further enhanced Multicast Broadcast Media Service” (FeMBMBS) built on a 5GNR Multicast Broadcast Media Service Network. A key element in this approach is the MEC operated by Ori.

Ori Global Edge offers a single point of control for operators to quickly add additional services for attendees without the usual overheads associated with new feature rollouts.

Additionally, Ori Global Edge provides a collection of common utilities needed to manage any environment including identity and access management, tenancy, workload isolation, secure traffic ingress, policy-driven mesh networking between workloads, and key management.

Key Solution from Ori

•          OGE MEC ensures real-time services without the need for centralised cloud     processing of data


Project VISTA is actively deploying proof of concept trials built with the Ori Global Edge and various underlying equipment to demonstrate capabilities in real-time, live event scenarios.

Key Results from Ori

•          Technology proof of concept for Ori Global Edge with Telcos, 5G networks and real-time services

•          Establish Ori Global Edge as a leading MEC for Telco providers

Click to Read the Complete Ori Case Study

Upgrading the live event experience with 5G

It is my firm belief that connectivity, both mobile and broadband, will boost the economy and play a central role in Britain’s post-pandemic recovery. Our collective belief at Virgin Media O2 in the potential of connectivity is why we continue to explore the role of technologies such as 5G networks in transforming not only industries but society at large. It is our mission to demonstrate the role 5G connectivity can play in upgrading the UK and it’s something I’m personally passionate about.

October marked two years since O2 first switched on its 5G network. The teams are immensely proud of what has been achieved in that time, but we’re not done yet. We remain focused on identifying and pioneering the latest 5G innovations to help meet our customers’ needs, both today and tomorrow.

One area we are seeing this come to life is live entertainment. As sponsors of Southampton FC, England Rugby, The O2 and O2 Academies, we have a strong heritage of supporting live experiences. However, the in-arena experience has gone largely unchanged since its inception. Enter 5G.

Our research* shows three out of four (76%) of consumers already use their smartphones at live events. So, beyond our existing support of these industries, we are always investigating how we can bring about positive change using enhanced connectivity. 

From cutting edge wearables that help young visually impaired fans see their beloved Southampton FC football heroes in action, to powering the world’s first 5G Festival, we’re using next-generation connectivity to make gigs and live sports events even more exciting for fans.

It’s why we’re proud to be part of the DCMS backed project 5G VISTA. A project that aims to deliver enhanced viewing experiences through 5G broadcast, delivering new camera angles and better information to fans. With over a third of fans who attend live sports and music events saying they’d be interested in using an app based on VISTA technology, this project supports our mantra to deliver real innovation that customers want now.

The mobile network experience in stadia can be a challenge for operators, as a large amount sites and spectrum are required to provide a premium video service at live events. However, 5G VISTA’s approach is a cost-effective way to overcome this, delivering content from one source to many users at the same time.

But how does it work? We’ve used an existing service called, “further enhanced Multicast Broadcast Media Service (FeMBMS)”. Multicast services are based on the principle of a one-to-many broadcast and FeMBMS has the potential to provide service to an unlimited number of customers within a desired coverage area (i.e. a stadium).

This 5G Mobile Broadcast Service, MBS, then frees up the mobile infrastructure for the usual traffic, such as text & messaging, social media, and browsing. It’s also a relatively low cost solution, meaning the necessary investment can be kept within a reasonable constraint, whilst providing a premium rate video service, and an excellent business opportunity.

Of course, we can’t build these exciting and transformative innovations alone. To make them a reality requires complementary skills across the whole mobile ecosystem and close collaboration with other leading partners in their respective fields. Working closely with Rohde & Schwarz, Digital TV Group, Digital Catapult, and Global Wireless Solutions, we’re making the 5G VISTA project a reality and bringing fresh content to thousands of fans.

Working with our partners, we’ve already completed the technical development phase of the 5G VISTA project. Now we have our sights firmly set on the live trial which will see us use the tech this coming Spring at a sporting event. Unfortunately, that’s all we can say for now, but if you want to find out more contact us via [email protected].

*Consumer research carried out by Global Wireless Solutions