Verizon plans Super Bowl rollout for ultra-fast 5G

Super Bowl LV’s battle between Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs will be the main attraction on Sunday, but Verizon is hoping to use the event as a showcase for ultra-fast broadband, unveiling a range of 5G-powered features for fans attending the game. There’s a lot riding on the rollout for NFL and Verizon, which has billed 5G as the future of streaming data. 

Verizon, which is teaming up with the NFL for its product push, is billing it as an “immersive and interactive” viewing experience for fans in the stadium and at home during Super Bowl LV.

Verizon has retrofitted the Raymond James stadium with ultra-wideband 5G, the fastest form of the technology, to reimagine live events and highlight “one of the best use cases for the power of 5G.” 

At stadiums and concert venues, 5G enables the use of small sensors that are placed on various infrastructure for real time data-collection. That data, when processed, can assist with venue management with crowd control, virtual wayfinding to concessions, and with organization of lines at concession stands.

Throughout the pandemic, Verizon says it has been working on the company’s 5G network and developing safety solutions that “can enable a return to live events” at stadiums around the country.

But there are substantial limitations to the reach of this technology. The high-band category of 5G that Verizon is using at the Super Bowl requires hundreds of antennas placed in close proximity to each other because the millimeter wavelength signal can’t travel far or penetrate walls. Verizon says the Raymond James Stadium and surrounding areas were upgraded with 70 miles of high speed fiber cable and nearly 300 new small cell antennas. 

Experts believe the need to deploy hundreds of thousands of small cell antennas will make it difficult to scale the benefits of high-band 5G from densely populated areas like stadiums and airports to rural parts and less populated parts of the country.

The deployment of 5G has been accelerating at live event venues. At the end of 2020, nearly 50 stadiums and arenas across the country were upgraded with Verizon’s 5G technology, according to Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group.

“We’re now subject matter experts on this,” Dunne told CBS News, predicting that 5G technology would transform the in-person experience at concerts, art galleries, and all types of sports facilities. “We now have an architecture that we can deliver to stadium partners,” Dunne added.

Dunne also touted data sensors, enabled by the use of 5G wireless technology and placed throughout the arena, that he said would help organizations “build a much, much richer data set that allows the team to understand players’ performances.”

Because of coronavirus restrictions, the NFL is expected to host only about 22,000 fans, leaving well over half of the stadium’s 65,000 seats empty at this year’s Super Bowl.

But fans at home who have 5G-enabled devices will also have an enhanced viewing experience this year with access to five different camera angles directly on their phones, Verizon says

“You can watch your own replays. You can look at it from different angles. You can see the touchdown and then go back and see it in different ways,” said Dunne.

He added that fans can become their “own live video editor for the broadcast stream” with access to multiple video feeds directly on their phones.

Verizon says fans will also be able to project the players’ stats throughout the game on augmented reality overlays using the NFL app on their phones.

Starting Monday, a virtual 5G stadium where fans can celebrate and compete for prizes, will be unveiled in Fortnite, the popular online game video game.

Verizon says the virtual stadium, which was built using 5G’s low lag times and high speeds, will allow gamers to interact with their favorite NFL players “in a way that’s never been done before.” On Tuesday and Friday, fans can tune into a livestream hosted by comedians Desus and The Kid Mero to watch popular gamers compete with NFL stars on the 5G-inspired virtual stadium.

And Verizon says it will host a Super Bowl after-party to benefit small businesses. The after-party, hosted by Tiffany Haddish, will feature performances by Alicia Keys, Luke Bryan, Miley Cyrus, H.E.R, Christina Aguilera and more.

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Moneywatch – CBSNews.com

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