Tech 

5G in the stadium. The Orange Velodrome is a special place

Stade Vélodrome, built in 1937, is one of the most unique football stadiums in the world. For several years, the facility that was the home of Marseille’s Olympique football club is called the Orange Velodrome, and on its premises the French operator launched its 5G laboratory, while connecting everything to a super-fast 5G network.

Orange invited Antyweb to Marseille to present its laboratory as well as the possibilities of 5G access in a sports facility. There are already 16 such 5G laboratories in Europe, and one of them was located in Warsaw, Poland, where we were also. In this way, Orange wants to inform customers and users about the possibilities of 5G technology. It is difficult to do this other than by showing practical applications in various scenarios.

Network stadium

First, some dry facts. The 5G laboratory at the Stade Vélodrome has been operational since December 2021. However, already in 2016, Orange equipped the device with a network of more than a thousand WiFi hotspots. It was then that the concept of “network stadium” was born, which was greatly influenced by the Euro-2016 held in France. 4G quickly proved to be a bottleneck in these ambitious plans, and three years later the 5G standard made its debut here. Thus, the Stade Vélodrome became the first French stadium equipped with this technology.

16 broadcast stations located in and around the stadium are responsible for the operation of the GSM network, 12 of which can be used by fans. For this purpose, the 3.5 GHz bands (less than 700 MHz and 2.1 GHz) are used, as well as (experimental) 26 GHz. The latter should allow transfers at the 4 gigabit level. Unfortunately, these results are available, for now, only through tests. In practice, I managed to reach a maximum speed of 980 Mbps in the speed test, but during the game, when the stadium was full of fans, this value fluctuated quite strongly.

5G in practice in the stadium

What does 5G bring to the stadium? In addition to providing connectivity for 67,000 fans (as this is the capacity of the stadium), Orange is testing the new standard in several interesting scenarios.

5G Lab is equipped with two Axyn Robotique robots. They are equipped with cameras, thanks to which the guests on the terrace can, for example, control a robot that moves in the area where the players are. Importantly, the robots allow two-way interaction between the robot pilot and the players, which has already been used in the past, e.g. charity campaigns involving terminally ill children.

Another way to interact with tunnel players is through La Vitre. There are two giant vertical screens in the laboratory and the competition tunnel. They are connected to each other in real time, which can actually be compared to such a constant and endless video chat (of course, in high definition).

Together with Sony, the Such a Smile service was launched at the stadium. A photographer equipped with a camera attached to the Xperia Pro 5G phone takes pictures of fans and they are displayed almost immediately on two huge screens. Without the use of 5G in the 26 GHz band, the whole process will take much longer. Meanwhile, here, the time from taking a photo to displaying it on the screens is only a few seconds. As this technology develops, it will be available to other organizations, including the media present at the stadium; Perhaps this is the first step in bringing reruns to the big screens.

Speaking of the TV experience, why not take it a step further and give fans a live experience? This solution is also already working in the 5G lab, it is called SUPRALIVE and is provided by Augmented Acoustics. Fans plug the headphones into their smartphone and get a few soundtracks delivered with virtually no lag thanks to 5G (which is key, of course). They can, for example, choose one of the TV or radio commentaries, or listen to sounds from selected points in the stadium, such as one of the stands or even the pitch.

The most impressive, however, was the Augmented Match application, which was created by the company immersiv.io. In short, it’s a very sophisticated AR pitch. The smartphone uses a camera to record what’s happening on the pitch, and the app overlays this image with additional information. And they are really impressive. in addition to player data (including season or career statistics), we can see live heat maps that reflect their movement on the field, as well as other information such as contact with the ball, successful pickups, shots, etc.

From a technical point of view, a separate camera located above the playing field is responsible for the whole thing, and the tracking of players’ positions and data collection is done entirely in the cloud. 5G, on the other hand, allows us to bring all of this directly to our phone. And what is key? everything happens in real time without any delay.

New quality of sports events.

It is not difficult to see that all the technologies tested by Orange should take sports events viewed from the stands to a whole new level in the long run. If you’ve been complaining about missing game replays or commentary until now, that may be about to change. Add to this other services such as communication with the players, access to detailed live data and we get a unique experience, combining the atmosphere and atmosphere of the stadium with the comfort and information typical of television broadcasting.

Orange already has the technology to implement all these services commercially. It’s only a matter of time before someone finally bases their business on it. Of course, the most important thing in all this is the preferences of the fans: are they ready for the sport in such a modern format and (probably more important from a business point of view) how much extra will they be able to pay. it.

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