5G Makes Its Super Bowl Debut

US carriers show off 5G at the NFL championship game

This year, the much-awaited Super Bowl LIV will be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Sunday 2 February. More than 100 million fans are expected to tune in to the US football game. It’s an exciting time for players and fans, but also for US carriers that are kicking off the next generation of mobile connectivity. Fans attending the match will be able to experience the high speeds and low latency of 5G, as all four of the major carriers in the US are expected to use this venue to flex their 5G muscle.

Verizon, the largest of the four carriers, will demonstrate its 5G network based on millimetre-wave spectrum. Labelled Ultra Wideband, the network will be available in the Miami area and at the stadium to demonstrate how 5G will allow fans to experience games like Super Bowl in totally new ways. It’s a taste of things to come. Verizon’s 5G service will be accessible around Miami’s airports, in parts of downtown, Bayfront Park and Hard Rock Stadium. This will be the first time that users will experience Verizon’s commercial 5G network with a supporting device inside the stadium during Super Bowl.

As Verizon’s Ultra Wideband roll-out relies on high-frequency millimetre-wave signals that don’t travel far and are easily blocked by walls and other obstacles, it will be an interesting test to see how spectators in the stadium’s 65,000 seats access 5G.

T-Mobile has built out its network capacity at venues throughout Miami over the past year, so customers can share their game-day experiences instantly. It claims that subscribers in Miami now have the best 5G coverage in the city. And for the big game, customers with 5G-ready smartphones can get a speed boost from millimetre wave-based 5G in places like Hard Rock Stadium and Bayfront Park, thanks to T-Mobile’s use of low-band and millimetre-wave spectrum for its 5G coverage in the area surrounding the stadium.

T-Mobile also says that it has deployed 5G using millimetre wave in the “lower bowl” at the stadium, but it’s possible that football fans will benefit more from improvements to T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network. The carrier has “more than doubled LTE capacity at Hard Rock Stadium so customers can stream, tweet, post and chat about every big moment from the game”. Almost all the updates are permanent, so Miami residents and visitors can enjoy the improvements long after the whistle blows.

AT&T has also been working for a year in anticipation of a surge in demand at the sporting event. It has upgraded or installed new distributed antenna systems at 29 locations throughout Miami and inside the stadium. The carrier is also offering a 5G service in parts of the surrounding region and will deploy six cell-on-wheel units to boost connectivity during the game. Within the stadium, the improvements will include additional 5G and Band 14 spectrum and distributed antenna systems, which promise 300% more LTE capacity than was available at the start of the football season.

To celebrate the participation of the team from Kansas City — Sprint’s home town — in Super Bowl, Sprint will provide its customers with improved capacity and faster speeds on game day. It will use two different technologies to help meet fans’ demands to stream, download, video call and text. Sprint claims that its massive-MIMO radios, which deploy its fast 2.5 GHz spectrum, and breakthrough “split mode” feature will allow it to simultaneously deliver the most-advanced LTE service and 5G connectivity for customers attending the event. Additionally, the company will provide 4G/5G dual connectivity within the venue, transmitting 4G over a state-of-the-art distributed antenna system.

Major sporting events tend to go hand in hand with the introduction of new technologies. This Sunday, 5G will take centre stage.