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Vodafone says 5G launch will enable a host of new sports business applications

Vodafone has become the second UK mobile operator to switch on its 5G network, predicting that the faster speeds and lower latency will open up an array of new applications for the sports business.

Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton put the network live in seven UK cities: London, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Bristol at a launch event in London. EE was the first operator to launch its 5G network in May.

Scott Petty, chief technology officer, Vodafone UK, said the faster network would improve streaming capabilities, enable higher-resolution virtual reality and augmented reality experiences and reduce latency in online gaming.

The mobile phone operator drew on its partnership with Wasps Rugby to perform the first haptic transfer over a 5G network. The impact of a rugby tackle made by second-row forward Will Rowlands on a tackle bag at the Ricoh stadium in Coventry was transferred via 5G to teammate Juan de Jongh on stage in London. Juan, in a specially-developed haptic Teslasuit, was able to feel the force of the tackle in real time.

Vodafone also demonstrated virtual reality footage of the team filmed using 8K camera technology at Wasps’ training base in Coventry. The company said 5G promises higher-resolution and more immersive VR footage, which will potentially open up new content and business opportunities for teams and broadcasters.

In another demonstration, Anne Sheehan, business director Vodafone UK suggested improved connectivity could take away the need for guide skiers in the visual impaired Paralympic skiing category with competitors being guided using connected headsets instead.

Following the press event, The DFL announced that it was working with Vodafone to bring 5G into stadiums in the Bundesliga for the start of the 2019-20 season. Under the two-year deal, Vodafone will provide 5G infrastructure in German stadiums for the first time and the two parties will develop a real-time, augmented-reality app that will make information and match data available to the fans in the stadium on their smartphones before, during and after matches.