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5G: How will it impact the live events industry?

Opportunities for live streaming and immersive technology will grow as 5G looks set to transform the market for live events, according to John Steele.

5G technology – the latest in super-fast mobile internet – is something our industry is watching with great interest as it builds momentum. 

In late May, EE were the first mobile network provider in the UK to switch on 5G and we are already seeing the live events world grab it by both hands. EE cleverly launched the next generation network with artist Stormzy performing the first live-stream gig over 5G.

For our industry, there’s a real possibility 5G will transform the world of live events, and event organisers and producers are certainly keeping it at the forefront of their technical planning when looking at opportunities – higher speeds and better bandwidth are, of course, an organiser’s dream! 

From my perspective as technical director at an AV and event production company such as Blitz, one of the most exciting advancements for us will be the options open to us in terms of live streaming and immersive technology – limitations with this technology have of course been down to connectivity and speed since its introduction, but 5G is going to enhance how we work at events to showcase brands or products.

On the other side, for the audiences the capabilities could be endless; from their handsets they could see different views from around a venue – it was trialled again by EE with Wembley Stadium to give fans an even greater experience all from their handset – whether at the venue or from the comfort of their sofa. Augmented reality and virtual reality will reach a whole new level in my view – mixed reality environments rely so heavily on having strong networks, so it goes hand in hand with faster, better internet access. I am excited to see the new and exciting innovations in this area, for sure.

Onto WiFi – wonderful when it works, an absolute disaster for an event when it doesn’t. The introduction of 5G means there will not be such a reliance on WiFi – which should eradicate those fears of slow connections.  In fact, the speeds over the 5G cellular network will match, and in some cases exceed, that of WiFi. It also means that the two-way speeds will dramatically increase – live Q&As, interaction and responses will become immediate, and this is a trend we are seeing more and more right now.  

As more carriers role out 5G (Vodafone are set to do so this summer) data going to handsets could increase tenfold – it will be interesting to see how much it has increased in the next few years. There is talk that 5G will eat right into data allowances, but again it is something we will all have to watch as time goes on. As with any new development, there are some concerns, in this case regarding the wattage of the transmitters and the power needed to move all this data. In addition, as with everything, security issues will always be at the forefront. 

I do believe, though, that if managed correctly, 5G technology will transform the events space – I think we will see remote content delivery as a given and we will be able to include all sorts of extra information. It’s going to be an interesting time ahead but we really are going to see some amazing experiences that we haven’t seen with 3G/4G technology – so watch this space!

John Steele is technical director at Blitz, a GES Company