BT Group’s EE and BT Sport have demonstrated the first live broadcast with remote production over 5G – an approach BT Sport will use to increase the coverage available to viewers with more matches and faster highlights.
The pair partnered to showcase the capability by delivering a live, two-way broadcast over 5G from Wembley Stadium to London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre. The live broadcast trial was hosted by BT Sport presenters Matt Smith at Wembley and Abi Stephens at ExCel, featuring contributions from Jamie Hindhaugh, chief operating officer, BT Sport at Wembley and Matt Stagg, Director of Mobile Strategy, BT Sport/Head of Media & Entertainment Technology, EE. The broadcast was carried over 5G in Wembley Stadium, and then produced remotely by the BT Sport production crew at BT Sport’s base in Stratford, East London.
Hindhaugh used the occasion to reveal that the final of the FA-recognised EE Wembley Cup 2018 on Sunday November 25th 2018 will be the world’s first live sporting event to be broadcast over 5G using remote production. The event, featuring YouTube’s biggest footballers alongside international football legends, will be broadcast over EE’s 5G network live from Wembley Stadium on the channel of YouTube star Spencer Owen (Hashtag United).
“BT Sport has a rich history of the latest broadcast innovations, whether it’s ultra-high-definition with Dolby Atmos or 360Virtual Reality,” noted Hindhaugh. “5G will next season enable BT Sport to deploy the most advanced remote production of any broadcaster. It will allow us to cover more live matches from more leagues and competitions, and to bring fans highlights action closer to the final whistle than has ever been done before in the UK.”
According to Hindhaugh, 5G offered “magical and exciting possibilities” around creativity, and especially the role of content creators. “For example, with a wireless camera not tethered to a truck, the options become limitless,” he suggested, adding that the speed benefits would allow broadcasters to get content on the air faster, to be more efficient and to cover more matches in more locations.
Stagg noted that 4G wireless technology was never designed for broadcast. “The problem is, it’s one network shared by everybody,” he explained. “You come to a 90,000-seater stadium, everybody’s doing their updates on social media, you would struggle to get that broadcast through. What 5G will allow us to do is to use a technology called network slicing, where it enables you to segment parts of the network off for different vertical industries. Broadcasting is a perfect use case for that and it allows us to create a broadcast grade network exactly as it would be for fibre or satellite, but you’ve got the mobility.”
He said that much faster file transfer would enable footage to be reviewed “within seconds” as opposed to potentially even having to courier hard drives from a location. Augmented reality at a venue was also a possibility.
The 5G broadcast from Wembley Stadium, using EE’s 5G test network in the stadium, showcases the capabilities of 5G. The test network uses EE’s 3.4GHz spectrum from its first 5G antenna in the stadium, connected to a 10Gbps backhaul link.
“This trial is another showcase of what our 5G network can do, and is a big part of our continued investment in using 5G across the whole of BT Group,” commented Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer business. “The EE Wembley Cup Final 2018 will be the world’s first live sporting event to be broadcast over 5G, and that’s part of our ongoing commitment to innovation for our customers.”
EE is the lead partner of Wembley Stadium. Since the partnership kicked off in 2014, EE has introduced several technological advancements to the stadium, including delivering significant network upgrades preceding the latest 5G implementation, ensuring fans can stay connected during events. EE also worked with the Wembley team to deliver the first official Wembley app.
EE will be continuing the rollout of 5G in Wembley Stadium throughout 2019. EE recently launched 5G trials in London and announced plans to rollout 5G to 16 cities across the UK in 2019.