A breakthrough report examining 5G’s potential to revolutionise the way fans interact with content at live sporting events, including football and motor racing, has been published today by Digital Catapult. 

It includes details of a trial of a prototype app at the League One match between MK Dons and Ipswich Town in February which allowed spectators to view different perspectives of the game on mobile devices. 

The trialists’ consensus was that the app provided an enhancement to match experience, allowing users to find a natural balance between watching the pitch and screen – rather than detracting from the event. 

Digital Catapult, described as the UK authority on advanced digital technology, has produced the report as the latest milestone in 5G VISTA, a government-backed consortium using 5G technologies to deepen audience engagement, broaden content for fans and create valuable new commercial opportunities.

The report – 5G VISTA: Bringing new dimensions to in-stadia sporting events – examines considerations for 5G Broadcast technology’s widespread rollout at sporting events, pinpointing current challenges and opportunities associated with its adoption. 

It also assesses how the 5G VISTA project can achieve a commercially viable product to take to market, and deliver innovative, high-quality and reliable 5G services to customers. 

Led by Digital TV Group (DTG), the VISTA project is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 5G Testbeds and Trials programme, a £200 million investment in testbeds and trials across the UK to explore novel implementations of 5G across different sectors.

“5G VISTA has made really critical strides towards a future where connectivity woes at large scale events are a thing of the past,” said Kostas Katsaros, lead 5G technologist at Digital Catapult. 

“Thanks to hard work across the consortium, we have proved that 5G Broadcast offers an efficient and cost-effective alternative to other cellular solutions being deployed at sporting events – existing options that can really break the bank for a network provider.  

“This report highlights the commercial viability of using a 5G Broadcast-enabled solution like 5G VISTA to take spectator experiences to a new level at football or motor racing events. It marks a leap towards this kind of solution being rolled out on a mass scale, and I can’t wait to see where learnings from 5G VISTA take us next.”

The report found 5G Broadcast/Multicast is an efficient and environmentally low-impact solution that augments the capability of heavily-congested cellular and Wi-Fi networks such as those found in sports events and music concerts.

It also found that barriers still exist to widespread rollout, such as rights ownership.

While it has potential for use at many different sporting events, 5G VISTA is concluded to be a commercially viable solution in two markets in particular, football and motor racing – provided a clear business plan is in place. 

In Formula 1, for example, spectators cannot see all of the action at all times.