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BT Sport
5G Private Network

Discover how BT demonstrated its unique broadcast capabilities, showcasing the powerful benefits that 5G and cloud-based technologies bring to broadcasters.

For the first time, BT Media and Broadcast showcased the advantages that 5G can bring to live sports production when deployed as a private network in combination with cloud-based technologies, demonstrating the clear benefits over traditional radio frequency (RF), and how the industry can become less tethered to traditional cable cameras and infrastructure.

The challenge

As BT Sport continues to innovate, they wanted to rely on the speed, and growing reach of EE’s 5G network, which has the potential to open new opportunities for all kinds of businesses. Broadcasting is no different. Using public 5G networks gave the flexibility to film from practically anywhere and get high-quality footage to where it needs to be, quickly and easily.

But the demands of broadcasting meant they couldn’t afford to share bandwidth with the public, as you need to guarantee that the pictures could be reliably transmitted. For instance – in stadiums where hundreds to thousands of people are using data on their mobile devices. Live sporting events – and other similarly-sized mass entertainment – remain a real challenge thanks to the competing demand for data and bandwidth from fans, broadcasters, stadium operators, and the wider community. 

Before 5G rolled out, the media industry became very excited with the idea of network slicing, which would have provided media companies the ability to book and guarantee bandwidth for live transmission. This technology remains in development. Nonetheless, BT Sport and Media and Broadcast worked together to find an interim solution that would meet the needs of broadcasters.

In addition to BT Sport wanting to push wireless technology further forward and become less tethered to traditional cable cameras in stadiums, they needed the connectivity to remotely produce the game and trial a software-defined cloud-based production.

The solution

Enter our private 5G network solution, which was designed and built on-location at Saracens’ StoneX Stadium. As well as providing the Outside Broadcast (OB) connectivity, the 5G private network guaranteed bandwidth that the public couldn’t access, using N77 shared spectrum regulated by Ofcom. It provided robust, broadcast-grade infrastructure for the club’s Gallagher Premiership match against Northampton Saints and connected untethered, low-latency match-day cameras. 

BT’s solution enhanced traditional RF network capability, which would use lots of frequencies at various parts of the chain. Now, all the wireless technology is converged onto a single platform providing a true bi-directional communication path, opening up possibilities for wireless microphones, return visions, comms, and camera control. 

The match was filmed using wireless 5G-enabled cameras, where two operators could freely move up and down the pitch-side and pre-match presentations. The signals were sent over a 5G network to an on-site production truck, where the programme was edited using BT Sport’s normal editing workflow. From there, it was sent to BT Sport’s usual distribution paths such as satellite, digital for apps, and IP. 

In parallel, the signals were also backhauled by Media and Broadcast’s Vena network, enabling complete control from a remote operations centre (ROC) in High Wycombe. Another output was distributed through the Vena network into AWS, providing a cloud-based vision, software mixers, replay systems and graphics, producing a cut of the game with the audio mix.

The result

At the start of 2022, 5G was all about the art of the possible. But, this trial started an innovative journey that made it a reality. It’s led to more live trials from BT and a consortium of partners, became one of the most exciting developments in broadcast and media technology, and won innovation awards along the way. Now it’s becoming more cost-effective, portable and ready for a solution to be commercialised in 2023 for many different use cases. 

The trial also illustrated the true power of software-defined cloud-based production. BT’s smart broadcast network Vena, coupled with cloud and 5G technology in this way, demonstrates a future vision that enables creativity, efficiency, and sustainability. It showed how it can make a huge difference to the way broadcast produce coverage of rugby, football, and other sports, and can provide various creative and operational benefits. 

BT continues to innovate and harness the power of 5G and cloud production to introduce new products and services for our customers and partners. 

We’ve always had the most well-defined use case out of all the verticals, needing guaranteed quality of service and low latency. We thought this would come about very early with network slicing, but that hasn’t come along yet. So, what we’ve said is we need to go and look at how we can build this ourselves.

Matt Stagg
Mobile and Immersive Director, BT Sport / Warner Bros. Discovery
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The home of live football, rugby union, boxing, MotoGP, UFC and much more. BT Sport is a group of pay television sports channels in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Owned by Warner Bros. Discovery and BT Group.


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