Over the past few years, the Neutral Wireless team have used our bespoke NW Lomond 5G Network in a Box technology in several early PoC trials of 5G networks for live sports broadcasting.

In August 2021, in collaboration with Vislink, Dorna and BT Sport, the team trialled the world’s first private 5G Standalone (SA) network for live High Definition (HD) video broadcasting, from the MotoGP event at Silverstone. This was followed up by another successful trial with BT Sport, Vislink and Broadcast RF at Stone X stadium in May 2022, where two 5G enabled HD cameras were used to provide live coverage of a league match between Saracens and Northampton. In both cases, video carried over our network went live to air.

Live Commentary from Pit Lane at Silverstone using Lomond 5G NIB
Live Coverage of Saracen’s rugby match using Lomond 5G NIB

5G has the potential to complement or replace existing wireless camera and microphone solutions. These have typically required the management of many spectrum licenses. With 5G, many cameras can be connected over the same network “cell” under a single spectrum license, as well as audio, monitoring, comms and control equipment. 5G also brings mobility to the table, allowing you to construct geographically large networks, and use cellular features such as handover to pass between basestations.

In video broadcasting applications, high uplink capacity and performance are required in order to transmit multiple HD video streams over the network. This contrasts with traditional Mobile Network Operator (MNO) networks, which are focused on downlink heavy applications.

Neutral Wireless’ private 5G radio technology is a highly configurable and customisable RF network solution, which can support channel bandwidths of up to 100MHz and enable features such as uplink TDD biasing and uplink MIMO, to enhance uplink capacity and range. Our network can be configured to enable dedicated bearers, with Quality of Service (QoS) flows optimised for uplink video streaming.

Our network can carry any form of IP video traffic. To date, we have integrated with and tested video streams using encoders from NuLink, Vislink, OBE, Haivision, LiveU, Magewell, BirdDog and Killoview; and carried a mix of proprietary UDP and standardised transport protocols including NDI and NDI|Hx.

Video carried over our 5G network breaks out of our User Plane data server. If located onsite, this can be connected directly to the video decoder for local production. (As with existing RF video solutions like COFDM, the video decoder outputs to SDI, and streams can then land on existing broadcast equipment and follow the same production workflow as cabled cameras). Alternatively, the video stream can be broadcast over the Internet to a cloud streaming facility, enabling Internet based remote production workflows.

The encoders and 5G UE transmitter can be made very small and lightweight, allowing them to be mounted with small cameras on racing cars, motorbikes, or flown overhead. A benefit our 5G network offers over COFDM is that it supports two-way data communication. This can be used for crew comms, as well as providing low latency telemetry data for team use, for broadcast overlays, or immersive reality graphics.

For small scale coverage (eg at a football stadium) it is probably possible to serve all your wireless cameras from a single cell basestation. This could be powered by a product such as the NW Lomond 5G Network in a Box.

For larger scale coverage (eg around an entire golf course or marathon track), Neutral Wireless can work with you to design a macro coverage network with multiple basestation sites. A benefit 5G offers over existing video broadcast solutions for macro networks is the inherent “mobility” supported by mobile networks. Our 5G UE transmitters can handover between basestation sites, and this means your cameras will continue to broadcast as they move around.

Please get in touch for further information on Neutral Wireless’ 5G for sports broadcasting solutions.