Villars, January 2020. Two very different events with a common focus: the next generation. The first focus is of a sporting nature – namely the 2020 Youth Olympic Games, which took place in Canton Vaud. The second focus is on innovative technology – the fifth generation of mobile network. Both events give an insight into the world of tomorrow; both demonstrate promising and undreamt-of possibilities. We don't yet know who the athletes of tomorrow will be. But the talented individuals who competed at the Youth Olympic Games all have great potential. The same can be said of the next generation of mobile communications technology. Together with partners BAKOM, EPFL, SRG, HEIG-VD and Neuchâtel-based company NuLink, Swisscom took advantage of this event to explore the possibilities of 5G technology in more detail.
The Youth Olympic Games left an impression with its high professional standards and an easygoing atmosphere. Spectators praised the feeling of closeness to the event, as well as the enthusiasm and vigour of the young athletes. The same sporting spirit can be seen in the uncomplicated and highly professional technology that the partners used to transmit images. The live streaming of images from cameras installed over a wide area usually requires a lot of material and logistics. For a ski race, for example, kilometres of cable are laid to connect cameras, studios and transmission relays to one another. 5G makes the infrastructure required significantly leaner: each device is connected wirelessly and in real time via 5G – because the next generation network has a very short latency period. This means that transmission via cable and high frequency transmission are no longer necessary. The aim of the pilot project in Villars is to push the limits of the potential offered by 5G for “mobile, universal Wi-Fi”. And it showed that setting up studios on the site of the broadcast can become a thing of the past thanks to the new “mobile Wi-Fi”. 5G massively simplifies image management for sporting and other events.
The use of 5G reduces material requirements by around one tenth. It also reduces CO2 emissions. But 5G not only means less material – on-site staff costs are also lower: cameras, microphones, timing systems and display boards at the event are controlled remotely via 5G. Smartphones are able to replace previously used walkie-talkies. Mobile studios and hardware for live radio broadcasts radio are no longer necessary. All of these factors do not just improve the environmental footprint of an event: the “zero-cable technology” also eliminates wiring costs that can run into the millions, because in many cases the cables are left on site but never used again.
The experiment in Villars was not just a feasibility study – it also captured the imagination. The future is always rooted in the present. An innovative experiment such as this one affects both the present and our visions of the future.
5G outdoes 4G. The new technology extends the wireless communication of smartphones to other devices. Specifically, this means that the 4G network is restricted to smartphones, whereas the 5G network can be used with any kind of device – for example, with a camera. Swisscom employee Jean-Luc Dumont explains how important upload speeds are for certain devices, such as high resolution cameras. Other devices, too, benefit from fast upload speeds: for example, all devices that create content rather than receiving it (like today's smartphones).
For Swisscom and the team at Swisscom Event and Media Solutions (SEM), this project was a real motivational boost. The SEM team is part of the Broadcast division and deals with the digitization and transmission of video streams to transmission platforms such as TV stations. With the help of 5G, smaller and medium-sized events can also receive better coverage without incurring the expensive costs associated with a major event.
For the SEM team, this is a pilot project investigating the technological potential. The operational phase has not yet started. Images were not transmitted to a TV station – especially because that would have meant negotiating with the IOC’s broadcaster, the Olympic Channel. Nevertheless, the innovative character and sustainability of the project won over the organizing committee of the Youth Olympic Games. Another 50 potential customers that followed the project on site are also interested – including UEFA, SRG and Eurovision.
Villars 2020 thus became the birthplace of a new field of innovation with great potential – for both the next generation and Swisscom.
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