Verizon has expanded its focus on in-stadium 5G applications through an expanded collaboration with Cisco for mobile edge computing.

Undeterred by a global pandemic that has resulted in sporting venues being mostly cleared of spectators, US mobile operator Verizon and partner Cisco pushed forward in October with plans to deploy a new set of 5G-powered services designed to enhance the customer experience and generate new revenue opportunities.

The new offering combines Verizon’s buildout of 5G using millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum with Cisco mobile edge computing infrastructure that can dramatically reduce latency and enable a set of real-time experiences for event attendees. While neither party specifically identified what new services they would be targeting, they did identify a number of general capabilities to be introduced, including:

  • The ability to use Cisco’s network analytics portfolio to monitor wait times at entry points and concessions;
  • Interfacing with digital signage to direct patrons to alternative locations with shorter lines;
  • Sending messages to stadium staff to identify areas of crowd density and help manage traffic

Offering new 5G services is vital for Verizon

The ability to offer compelling new 5G-powered services is particularly important for Verizon, which has thus far carved out a significantly different path than its competitors in building out 5G. While T-Mobile USA and AT&T offer exponentially greater 5G coverage footprints, they do so in so-called ‘low-band’ spectrum in the 600 MHz and 700 MHz ranges, which offers only modest improvement in performance over 4G/LTE.

In contrast, Verizon offers service in millimeter-wave spectrum in the 28 GHz band. Verizon’s mmWave spectrum network can offer dramatic improvements in data throughput and latency necessary to enable transformative use cases such as augmented and virtual reality applications customized for a specific stadium or even to a specific sports team.

So, while the current offering may be of limited value in the near term, it does lay the groundwork for those kinds of applications when fans do feel safe in returning to stadiums. In fact, Verizon is pitching its ability to monitor crowd density as a way to put anxious fans at ease as restrictions begin to relax.

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As soon as that happens, Verizon will look to stand out from the 5G crowd, not just at outdoor stadiums but at indoor events, too. In the past few months, it has announced collaborations with the Indianapolis 500, the National Hockey League, and the Academy Awards.  Until then, Verizon will continue to be the US operator with the most advanced 5G network – and the least realistic use cases for that network.