— Nitin Bansal, Managing Director, India Head-Networks, Market Area South East Asia, Oceania and India, Ericsson
Fans across the world increasingly want unlimited, uninterrupted, and immersive experience to enjoy their favorite sports, whether they are cheering for their team at a stadium or watching a live game on their TV sets. Nitin Bansal, Managing Director, India Head-Networks, Market Area South East Asia, Oceania and India at Ericsson talks about how the immersive experience with 5G will take the live match excitement for viewers in India to a whole new level.
The love for sports hasn’t diminished, despite lockdowns. Instead, it has been an opportunity to prepare stadiums for the day fans return in large numbers as they are looking to get more out of their game experience, especially with 5G being rolled out across markets. According to the Five ways to a better 5G report by Ericsson Consumer Lab, 5G is already beginning to trigger new use behaviors. The report also states that in addition to reducing Wi-Fi use globally, 5G early adopters are also spending an average of two hours more on cloud gaming and one hour more on augmented reality (AR) apps per week compared to 4G users.
Superior internet connectivity will evolve sports experience
Fans today aren’t just interested to watch the game but also keen to engage more with the event with live stats about their favorite teams/players, the venue, weather forecast and its impact the game, live chats etc. Better internet connectivity has given a big fillip to sports watching in countries across the globe. With 5G-enabled services, this is set to increase multifold as the NextGen technology will deliver enhanced mobile broadband experience and encourage communication service providers as well as broadcasters to offer improved and immersive experiences to viewers.
For example, if you’re in a stadium watching a live game with players that are far off in the distance, you might want something closer to home to understand what’s happening on the field. At this time, personalized views of the game in real-time would be quite helpful, an example of this already in use is Verizon 5G Multi-View. Verizon has now implemented its 5G Ultra-Wideband network in more than 70 US stadiums and sports venues. Fan engagement is in demand. No more binoculars. Instead of having an experience pushed to fans, with 5G Multi -View fans can change how they experience the game – they can personalize it fully.
The Multi-View solution needs massive bandwidth and low latency. And in stadiums with 5G, Verizon can offer seven streams of HD video to a smartphone, allowing fans to control the angle or view they want to watch and rewind the video feeds to see instant replays. Whether a spectator is in the high section of a venue, or in the low section but can’t see the end of the field, he/she can pull out their phone, hit the view that they want and watch that in real time.
Without the low latency provided by 5G, Multi- View wouldn’t be possible. 5G can not only improve how we watch the game, but also how we watch the players. We’ll be able to see how a player moves, how they handle the ball or racket and analyze the likelihood of an injury. Further, this real-time sports analysis can influence whole teams and their strategies. It can allow teams and coaches to make educated and informed decisions based on this next level of data they have access to.
In its Sport Survey for 2020, PwC interviewed a group of industry leaders on their perceptions of key opportunities for the sports market and the three major opportunities that emerged are: enhanced digital media experience; creation and monetization of digital assets and innovation in media rights packaging and distribution. Sports events businesses working with service providers could capitalize on industry trends including digital applications, video on demand and engaging immersive experiences such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
5G will revolutionize the stadium experiences in India, bringing real-time immersive experience to fans at the venue and outside. 5G rollout in stadiums will create the opportunity for growth in services linked to sporting events and venues. It will also open revenue opportunities for service provider revenue by not only enabling services that improve the live experience for fans at venues but also bring fans watching from home, much closer to the game.
Some other recent examples where operators in different parts of the globe having changed the in-venue experiences of sports fans through 5G include:
Ooredoo Qatar brought immersive sports experience to fans with 5G services during Amir Cup Final. The Al Janoub Stadium in South Qatar was equipped with 5G capabilities to give fans a glimpse into the enriched experiences 5G can bring while watching live sport. The immersive sports demo was live broadcasted to a virtual stadium at Mall of Qatar where consumers experienced the VR and immersive experience of the match remotely.
During the 2019/2020 season German Football League DFL developed a new immersive AR application. The application provides images, statistics, and match analysis as an AR overlay in real-time, and in the future, the application will show granular data about players and their performance Super Bowl 2021 elevated fans’ live experience with its 5G network. The Super Bowl’s immersive experience enabled interactive viewing. Phone users could engage with different camera angles while in the stadium or from home. They were also able to project AR overlays when they pointed their devices at their favorite players on the field.
Fans are eager to have an in and out of stadium experience with before, during, post event streaming and video on demand services. According to the Five ways to a better 5G report, Immersive video, which includes AR and VR, already contributes to 20 percent of total time spent by 5G users on digital services globally. Service providers together with other ecosystem players are trying to accelerate the development of digital services to meet consumer needs at the same time trying to unlock the full revenue potential of 5G
Glimpse of Immersive Sports Experience in India
Closer home, at the Indian Mobile Congress 2019, Ericsson showcased an Immersive sports use case with the combination of 5G, augmented reality and virtual reality. In this demo, new immersive experiences of a live football match were demonstrated where viewers not just felt they were in the stadium watching a live match but could also get statistics of a player instantly if desired and much more. Basically, consumers could take control of their own digital sports experience. The trial also demonstrated how service providers can utilize these capabilities to develop new innovative service offerings and drive revenue growth during the sporting events in the country.
Future of sports: where every seat is the best seat in the house
Research shows that consumers are ready for more immersive experiences. A ConsumerLab and IndustryLab research revealed – even a few years back – that half of the world’s smartphone users expect us all to be wearing AR glasses by 2025. And according to Ericsson’s latest 10 Hot Consumer Trends report, 55 percent of consumers want to visit a museum that uses advanced AR/VR technology to recreate historic events, making them feel as if they are there in person.
With the demand there, how will this evolution translate to sports experiences long term. In fact, sports and players are set to enter the home itself through augmented and virtual reality. In the future, every seat will be the best seat in the house through immersive technology, which will bridge the current gap between the stadium and the home experience.