Globally, sports venues are seeing accelerated growth in data usage. For the Super Bowl alone, data usage grew from 34% increase in data traffic for Super Bowl 55 to a whopping 32.1 terabytes for Super Bowl 56. This growth showcases a major opportunity for service providers to deliver advanced network connectivity that gives fans the most enjoyable in-stadium experience.
Digital technologies and high-speed bandwidth enabled by 5G have revolutionized the consumption of rich media content. Fans expect to text, live-stream, post, upload and call to share their in-venue experiences on both personal and social media platforms. Recent technological advancements make it possible for fans to have an immersive experience, regardless of device or form factor.
The experience of fans at the stadium, despite their being in the thick of the action, doesn’t compare with the experience of watching the game in our family room on a huge flat-screen TV that displays stats, replays, player profiles and so much more. The hassles of buying tickets, traveling to the stadium, finding our seats and standing in long lines for food and beverages makes for a less-than-ideal fan experience.
Role of 5G in transforming the in-stadium fan experience
5G technology takes the in-stadium fan experience to the next level. Its high bandwidth reduces latency and improves the flexibility of wireless service providers. It’s about 100 times faster than the typical 4G network and provides greater data capacity and faster download speeds.
For those reasons, smart stadiums are investing heavily in 5G to make events more engaging, lively, informative and enjoyable. Strikingly, 5G deployment cost is far less than for traditional Wi-Fi systems, which requires setting up massive numbers of hot spots. 5G is making faster performance, new services, and lower costs a reality, allowing fans to stream high-definition video in real time and get a great view from every corner of the stadium.
Disruptive technologies like 5G and IoT enabled with edge computing provide highly engaging, immersive, and enhanced experiences to in-stadium fans. IoT sensors in smart stadiums deliver real-time information on the edge, improving fans’ digital engagement and providing smoother connectivity to the real world.
The adoption of IoT in stadiums also facilitates effective management of stadium infrastructure—facility management, security operations, retail sales and day-to-day operations. Smart stadiums equipped with sensors, ultra high definition (UHD) cameras and digital signs create better connections between the stadium’s private networks and fans. Multi-access edge computing (MEC) reduces network latency and provides localized video/data processing, which improves video delivery performance, consumption services and delivery of high-quality computational services.
The next-gen in-stadium fan experience
To compete with the comforts of home, stadiums must go beyond the basics to deliver memorable experiences that motivate fans to return to the stadium again and again, and spend their time and money on associated channels. In other words, stadiums have to give fans something they can’t get at home: a fun, immersive live event experience in real time. When the capabilities of mobility are combined with IoT and MEC on a 5G network, smart stadiums provide a plethora of features that make the in-stadium experience much more enjoyable and memorable: multi-angle views and replays, player stats, wagering opportunities, game data, unique fan experiences enabled by IoT devices, and location- or affinity-based offers and promotions.
HCLTech cloud native private 5G architecture for smart stadiums
5G mobile edge compute (MEC)
The major components of the 5G MEC-constructed COTS hardware are:
- Cloud RAN: These cloud-native software solutions enable deployment of a radio access network (RAN) over any COTS hardware. This new approach, which service providers across the globe are implementing, ends vendor lock-in, and its higher processing computing capacity means almost zero latency in processing voice and data.
- Cloud OSS and BSS: Communication service providers (CSPs) use OSS and BSS to give fans personalized omnichannel experiences on a self-service basis.
- NGC core: The 5G next generation core (NGC) network is part of the network that provides services to mobile subscribers through the RAN. NGC network components don’t exist as physical servers, switches or routers. They are derived from LTE but are hosted on a cloud platform such as VNF or CNF. The major NGC network elements are AMF, SMF, NSSF, NRF, PCF, AUSF and UDM, among others.
- Network slicing: This technology enables multiple logical networks to run simultaneously on top of a shared physical network infrastructure. Network slicing is extremely useful for applications like the IoT, where the number of users may be extremely high but overall bandwidth demand is low.
Key use cases
It all comes down to the superior fan experience that these technologies deliver. Let’s take a look.
On a game app on their mobile devices, fans register with their ticket number to access on-demand instant replays and game highlights. Fans can also respond to live polls and get team information, trivia and game stats. Another app saves fans from the hassle of standing in long lines to order food and beverages and lets preferred partners deliver location- or affinity-based offers and promotions directly to fans. Smart surveillance cameras and IoT devices monitor restrooms and an app directs fans to restrooms with the shortest lines.
With a VR headset integrated with 360-degree cameras at the stadium, fans can stream live and recorded game highlights from multiple angles.
Fans can use smart AR glasses that augment the live game with real-time statistics such as speed, yards gained, tackles and more. Fans can toggle to see AR visualizations on the field such as heat maps, shooting scenarios or pass percentage by zone.
UHD cameras present live video from a location of the fan’s choice, which allows fans to experience the game almost as if they are players. Using video content analysis, the cameras help stadium staff reduce congestion by redirecting spectators to less crowded areas, which makes the fan experience more enjoyable.
Before arriving at the stadium, fans can enter their ticket number on an app in which a biometric engine performs facial identification. This allows fans to enter the stadium more quickly and easily.
A smart parking system uses smart surveillance cameras to tell fans how many parking spaces are available and estimates the wait time for leaving the stadium.
With these technologies, the decision to watch from home or go to the stadium is no longer a no-brainer in favor of couch potatoes. The hassles of buying tickets, traveling to the stadium, locating seats and standing in long concession stand lines have been replaced with easy access and an immersive fan experience.
Thanks to 5G, the IoT, MEC, UHD cameras and other disruptive technologies, game day is once again a fun-filled outing for sports fans all over the world.