How Orange is kicking off private 5G networks in France
More than 65,000 people can pack into Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome to watch Olympique de Marseille each week, but what they might not realise is the 80-year old stadium is also home to a slice of modern technology – Orange’s 5G testbed.
France’s first 5G stadium has housed French football’s Ligue 1 title 10 times, but was picked by multi-year sponsor Orange to be home for testing its latest connectivity standards with the aim of driving innovation.
For the last two and a half years, it has been lighting up fan’s experiences. 5G connectivity is supporting many use cases in and outside the Vélodrome, which TechInformed had the opportunity to test out and chat with Orange Business Services’ head of innovation Guillaume Chabas. The use cases include augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, and advanced photography and video.
“At Orange, we are leveraging the sponsorship asset [of the Vélodrome] to welcome business and innovation inside the stadium. This leads to enhanced brand perception from our customers and businesses, and together with the technological investment, we have considerable support for the innovation work that we are undertaking at the stadium,” Chabas explained.
Behind the scenes, an IoT management solution has been deployed throughout the stadium to better operational performance and efficiency. This is controlled from a dedicated data room within the stadium, which is hooked up to 5G and other complementary connectivity, to help the stadium operators with crowd management, bandwidth management, and facilities management.
One use case for the 67,000 fans inside the Vélodrome is Augmented Match, an interactive 5G-powered application, built from a digital twin. The app live streams the match, and allows fans to access real-time statistics and data by clicking on the players and the pitch.
Meanwhile, on the pitch, a photographer takes photos of fans and, through being connected with the 5G network, the photo is sent straight to the big screen inside the stadium. Additionally, a tall screen provided by start-up La Vitre gives fans what looks like a portal into the tunnel, where, if you can catch them, users can talk to the players. And if you’re not there in person, a VR headset provides a 360 view of the pitch, or, if you’re lucky, you can chat to a footballer through a “robot video call”.
The robot used for this is in collaboration with Axyn Robotics, a robotics company local to Marseille. It is on wheels with a screen on top that players can access via video call, which can then be used to meet fans and children.
The Orange Vélodrome is “a great opportunity to develop partnerships”, according to Chabas. “It’s within our DNA to work in a collaborative way and work with the ecosystem, connecting people and industry players.”
So far, the testbed has been a success: “For Orange, the objective was the demonstrate the use of 5G, Edge, and computer vision technology in one use case We have demonstrated that the technology is now ready to use,” Chabas said.
Orange envisions the technology and it’s own 5G being used in industrial settings as well, Chabas explained: “We also see other opportunities for this technology with Industry 4.0 and Augmented Technicians with its capability to have overlaid in real-time with a smartphone or headset like HoloLens2, Nreal.”
“We see 5G as being the catalyst for all kinds of new immersive experiences for sports fans, but also the B2B arena in mines, oil rigs, and manufacturing plants,” notes Eric Domage, Anticipation and Innovation Strategist at Orange Business Services in a related press release.
Chabas said that the Vélodrome provides key learnings when it comes to 5G implementation, such as a deeper knowledge of business-to-consumer and business-to-business market usages, an improved insight into how technologies and data function together, and an insight into stress-tests with the huge data consumption and people density, “with standard usage, going from 67k to 200 people, the stadium context offers a unique test-bed”, according to Chabas.
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