How we got a taste of 5G potential at Super Bowl

The sports entertainment industry could get a lot more interesting with 5G connectivity.
4 February 2020

Fans roar in excitement watching the NFL games. Source: AFP

The highlight from the weekend’s Super Bowl wasn’t just Patrick Mahomes’ three touchdowns. The landmark sports event also showcased the power of 5G. 

5G is the next-gen wireless network technology that is set to transform a wide range of industries through super-low latency. One of the key applications often touted is how it could transform entertainment, including live sports.  

The National Football League (NFL) and Verizon partnered to set up the light-speed network. The telecom company invested US$80 million to install 5G in the stadium and around the host city of Miami. 

5G is expected to help teams and clubs optimize ticketing systems, reduce labor costs and, in particular, enhance fan engagement. 

“Our goal is that as we think about the fan experience in the stadium, we’re always thinking about: How are we enhancing their experience?” NFL Chief Revenue Officer, Renie Anderson told CNN Business. 

Anderson believes 5G is key in taking the game experience to greater lengths as fans can access their tickets, order, and make purchases from their mobile phones. 

5G’s light-speed and low bandwidth features are also expected to improve streaming and eSports dramatically. Leagues and organizations will have a better and wider reach to fans across the nation, near and far, giving rise to new revenue streams in from innovative new pay-per-view and advertising formats. 

For the first time this year, enabled by 5G connectivity, the NFL’s fan engagement app OnePass allowed fans with compatible devices to watch a live stream of the game through multiple cameras, with five different angles available.

“I can’t imagine going through these experiences and not being excited about the technology and what it will enable for sports and for the NFL and NFL fans,” Verizon’s Chief Product Development Officer Nicki Palmer told CNN Business. “It’s fantastic for fans because it brings the latest tech to their fingertips.”

The applications for 5G in Miami are relatively limited as the technology is still nascent, yet it provides a glimpse into the potential of consumer-facing applications in a 5G-powered world. 

5G will form part of a confluence of technology that will redefine the sports entertainment industry, starting from increased connectivity between wearables to enhance athlete performance to bringing the game to audiences at home through VR (virtual reality) headsets. 

This year’s sports events are proving popular platforms for tech companies to show off their wares. In a sponsorship deal worth hundreds of millions, Alibaba has teamed up with the International Olympic Committee.

The Chinese tech giant hopes to use its cloud technology at the Tokyo Olympics to route thousands of hours of footage and interviews more efficiently — requiring less staff and equipment on-site while creating more content for social media.