The Super Bowl is the biggest night in American football and is usually celebrated with live events and a packed stadium, but things were very different this year. With the ongoing pandemic, only 25,000 fans could attend Super Bowl LV in-person, so Verizon
used its 5G Ultra-Wideband network to create a "fan first" experience.
With the power of 5G and an array of data centers located closer to the end-user, called the "edge cloud," Super Bowl LV gave a glimpse into the future of personalized, immersive sporting events and made a solid case for mass adoption of these technologies. Fans watching the game from their homes or from Raymond James Stadium with the NFL's mobile app were able to access Verizon's 5G "Super Stadium," allowing them to view the game from never-before-seen camera angles, bringing fans even closer to the action.
Another new addition to the Super Bowl this year was Verizon's 5G Stadium in Fortnite Creative, which gave online gamers the ability to interact with their favorite NFL players and other pro gamers. While in the virtual stadium, fans could participate in meet-and-greets with avatars of NFL players and play mini-games with them.
The virtual stadium in Fortnite the first of its kind produced a more engaging and personal experience by bringing NFL players to life so fans could feel more connected to the event beyond simply watching the game. Without 5G and edge cloud, these new virtual fan experiences would not have been possible. By processing data closer to the end-user, edge cloud creates fully immersive experiences in real-time, bringing a new level of gaming to life.
5G and the sports viewing landscape
With 5G and other innovative technologies like IoT, AR/VR, AI, and machine learning, fans get richer and more personalized multimedia viewing experiences. Sporting events will no longer be just about the live, in-person experience, but also about the multimedia environment surrounding the event. For example, leading up to the final championship, the NBA partnered with AT&T to provide 5G-enabled holographic interviews with players. Fans could watch as an analyst interacted with the holographic player as if they were physically in the same room together.
This showcases how the 5G technology ecosystem can be used to further enhance the fan experience by virtually connecting fans with players in real-time. 5G promises up to 100x faster speeds and up to 10x lower latency when compared to traditional 4G/LTE networks. These high speeds and low latencies mean the user can experience a virtual environment with no delays or buffering so they can feel truly immersed. These technologies will further personalize event experiences for fans by allowing them to interact with their favorite athletes like they would in person.
Utilizing the power of 5G with edge cloud
As the rollout of 5G continues, fans will see more engaging multimedia experiences and service providers across the globe are taking steps to prepare their networks. To truly revolutionize the fan experience, the network must provide ultra-low latency, high capacity, and highly available connectivity. Moving cloud compute and storage resources from data centers in the core of the network to the edge closer to the end-user will help meet these service requirements so that the user (or fan) can have a fully immersive experience. This brings to life 5G- experiences, like Verizon's 5G Stadium.
How an Adaptive Network is the Game's MVP
To optimize edge cloud for 5G, operators must efficiently and intelligently manage data center traffic during peak periods of usage. Providers can do this by leveraging an adaptive, highly programmable, and scalable network infrastructure with data-driven analytics and intelligent automation software. By utilizing an Adaptive Network, providers can respond quickly to data congestion and rapidly scale network resources accordingly, delivering the best possible experience to fans.
While 5G continues to be deployed, fans and service providers alike should expect to see more immersive applications and multimedia viewing experiences. Edge cloud will help deliver these services faster and with higher performance to ensure lively, fulfilling experiences for fans. As in-person experiences continue to be put on pause, this is a prime opportunity for 5G and edge cloud to digitally revolutionize the sports industry.
Steve Alexander, Senior VP and Chief Technology Officer, Ciena Corporation
Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash