The 5G Revolution Will Be Televised
As we watch the Olypmics, a revolution will be unfolding before our very eyes: the arrival of 5G. Korea Telecom has developed the high-speed low latency network that can support mass video streaming and deliver wifi to 250,000 devices simultaneously. They are also partnering with Intel and Samsung on tablet-based video demonstrations of the network. The need for 5G innovation is about more than just live streaming sports content. The applications for this type of technology will be visible in communication between emergency responders and emergency room staff, autonomous vehicles, and connected security technology.
5G sounds great but why do we need it? For many venues their current infrastructure is akin to a single lane bridge; it does the trick when traffic is flowing one way, and is controlled. However, when traffic begins to flow in both directions and when the demand to cross the bridge expands, it will fail. Currently venues need to simultaneously supply fans with bandwidth, and also need to power their own operations. Trying to upload a photo to Instagram in a crowded a stadium is challenging and operators know it. Executives on our Smart Venue panel at CES discussed how they are working to improve this experience. Chuck Steedman, COO for AEG Worldwide, a smart venue operator, thinks 5G will be a game changer. “The benefit of 5G to the venue itself, as opposed to the consumer is going to be dramatic,” he said. “Because the consumer doesn't necessarily need 5G speed and latency in their hands. What the venue needs is the ability to process: right now the standard for venues is about 200 security cameras, in five years it'll be 2000.”
This sounds pretty behind the scenes. How does 5G affect fans? For most of us, 4G LTE networks are fast enough; however, the fibers that make up the current networks aren’t equipped to handle the estimated four-fold increase in data traffic that is expected by 2021. That day may come sooner for NFL stadiums, according to Extreme Networks, where daily data consumption is up 60% since 2015 with Snapchat being the primary offender. Venue operators are scrambling to bridge this connectivity gap, and create availability of up to 1TB of data per seat. As Oak View Group’s Francesca Bodie noted during our Smart Venue panel, “when Taylor Swift comes, and your fans can’t get on Snapchat, you get as many complaints as people queuing in the snow.”
CES 2018 Panel: From Smart Venues to Smart Cities
- So we need 5G because of Snapchat? Not exactly, but kind of. Snapchat represents key data guzzling elements: video sharing, mixed reality and content streaming. Some estimates say that by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content. Mixed reality, which requires a large amount of computing power to distribute, is set to grow from 18 million devices in 2016 to 100 million by 2021 with more than half connecting through a mobile device. The NBA plans to be part of this growth in 2018 when they leverage Verizon’s 5G capabilities to offer augmented reality on LeaguePass. Adding these immersive features can add to the fan experience, but they demand huge network power or risk falling flat. Mercedes Benz found this out the hard way when they rolled out an immersive ‘last fan standing' contest for the Superbowl. Their site crashed due to demand and instead of competing for a new car, fans were greeted with an error page.
The Takeaway: Investing in 5G isn’t sexy, but Verizon’s trial at the Superbowl and KT and Intel’s formal 5G debut at the Olympics signal that 5G will soon become a business necessity. Once the infrastructure for delivering live streams is in place, true virtual reality and other innovative fan experience technologies will soon follow. Companies like Intel, Panasonic, and Samsung, with products that demand robust and efficient networks depend on 5G’s successful rollout and will be paying close attention to how Pyeongchang goes. All major US carriers have plans to roll out 5G in 2018, with Verizon and AT&T slated to be first on the market. Verizon and Intel have carefully selected their 5G debuts, the success of further 5G rollouts will also depend on selecting the right content and opportunity for experimentation.
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