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Workshop: 5G

Workshop: 5G

Hosts: Gareth Griffiths, The O2 (UK) | David Jones, AEG Europe | Brendan O'Reilly, O2/Telefónica UK | Chris Vaughan, Chris Vaughan Productions (UK)

In the UK, most reporting on 5G has been dominated by arguments about whether Huawei should be allowed to build part of the infrastructure. So it made a refreshing change to actually learn more about what the technology can actually offer the live industry.

AEG Europe’s David Jones, who directs technology, digital strategy, planning and delivery for some top venues including London’s O2, Berlin’s Mercedes Benz Arena and Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe pointed towards the increasing use of mobile devices for buying ticketing and getting into venues. 

However, despite this trend over the past five years, when competition is fierce for an in-demand show, customers tend to revert to buying on their computers. “Having rock solid mobile service will give them confidence that they have as much chance of getting a ticket as anyone else has,” he said.

Moreover, 5G’s “robust coverage” where thousands of people are concentrated in small spaces will offer a boon to both consumers and industry. For concert-goers connected to an event via an app, bottlenecks can be pre-empted, while push options will allow the venue or promoter to offer upgrades as well as different catering options.

Brendan O’Reilly, chief technology officer at O2/Telefónica UK Ltd, forecast that as 5G becomes widespread, customers will enjoy a range of additional benefits. “It allows [the experience] to become more personalised,” he said. “You now have the ability to curate your own evening. I think you will see a huge amount of innovation in that space.” 

Chris Vaughan revealed that he is currently speaking to an artist about introducing 3D video into shows. “A whole area of creative opportunities will open up,” he said. “5G allows us to be truly interactive.”

For Vaughan, the technology also means that productions will no longer have to use a venue’s network. This has previously led to problems when in-ear monitors, radio mics and on-stage kit compete with aspects of a venue’s digital infrastructure. “On the Take That tour we were running on 5GHz of wireless, but so did the bars, cash machines and just about anything else you could think of,” he said, recalling that the problem was discovered between sound and safety checks and the doors opening. As a result, the crew were left having to find things to shut off in order for the production to work.

5G broadband allows “slicing,” which will enable a specific part of the bandwidth to be allocated to key areas such as security, thereby also obviating the need for dozens of walkie talkies and saving on costs. And according to Jones, it will also facilitate machine to machine technology, which alerts building services teams to equipment requiring maintenance before it fails, thereby enabling a proactive rather than a reactive approach.

All the main UK mobile networks now provide 5G, with a total of 60 towns and cities now covered, while all the leading mobile manufacturers now sell a 5G-enabled handset. The exception is Apple, but there was general anticipation that the next iPhone model will be compatible.

As the technology becomes more widespread, venues and shows in Europe and North America are expected to begin testing its capabilities, and festivals are likely to be next to benefit from the ability to provide vastly more coverage in a confined space.

Unlike the British politicians, the panel took a pragmatic view on who should be building providing infrastructure. When asked about Huawei’s role in providing the technology, O’Reilly was diplomatic. “We want a wide vendor pool to drive innovation,” he said.