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

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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 says: “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 adds:”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 ground-breaking 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.

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