30 November 2021

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

David Owens
Head of Technical Trials
Virgin Media O2
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