This article originally appeared on USA Today by Edward C. Baig.
Ahead of the kickoff to the NFL’s 100th season, Verizon announced that it is bringing 5G “Ultra Wideband” connectivity to 13 NFL stadiums.
At some of the venues, including New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, the field the New York Jets and Giants call home, the stadium is the only local place a consumer with a 5G handset (there are currently only a few) can experience the next-generation network. (Verizon has launched 5G in parts of 10 cities, with the goal of reaching 30 markets by the end of the year.)
In the NFL stadiums where coverage will be available starting with Thursday night’s Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field and then on to a full slate of games on Sunday, Verizon says 5G service will be accessible in concentrated seating areas and perhaps elsewhere. Fans with phones will still be able to tap into 4G LTE when 5G is unavailable.
AT&T says ‘game on’
Not to be outdone, rival AT&T said it would enable 5G at its namesake venue, AT&T Stadium, before the home team Dallas Cowboys host the Giants on Sunday. Back in February, AT&T Stadium became America’s first with live mobile 5G, but service was limited, and that was after the Cowboys season ended.
AT&T will provide Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphones and Netgear Nighthawk 5G hotspots for fan experiences around the stadium.
For example, using “volumetric” video, fans will be able to interact with Dallas Cowboys players – Randall Cobb, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Jaylon Smith – in chants and other experiences. Or, they’ll be able to “pose” with Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Leighton Vander Esch.
Through another experience, fans can access live player stats through the camera lens of the Galaxy S10 5G using localized augmented reality.
Verizon will also make phones available for fan use in 5G stadiums, from Samsung, LG and Motorola.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement about the Verizon partnership: “As we celebrate the NFL’s 100th season we look forward to the day when Verizon will have their 5G Ultra Wideband service in the stadiums for all 32 NFL Clubs. Having this cutting-edge technology in our stadiums will greatly enhance the game-day experience and bring a multitude of benefits to our fans and clubs in a number of different ways.”
In his own statement, Verizon CEO Hans Vesberg said in part, “We expect the impact on the sports entertainment industry to be massive – it promises to revolutionize the entire game-day experience for fans.”
These are still early days for 5G, of course. All four U.S. carriers, not only Verizon and AT&T but would-be merger partners T-Mobile and Sprint, have all begun building out and in some cases deploying these latest networks, which not only promise blazing speeds but low latency, a measure of network responsiveness.
Aside from MetLife, below are the stadiums where Verizon will provide limited 5G coverage, with more to follow:
- Bank of America Stadium (home to the Carolina Panthers)
- Empower Field at Mile High (Denver Broncos)
- CenturyLink Field (Seattle Seahawks)
- Ford Field (Detroit Lions)
- Gillette Stadium (New England Patriots)
- Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Dolphins)
- Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis Colts)
- M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens)
- NRG Stadium (Houston Texans)
- Soldier Field (Chicago Bears)
- U.S. Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings)
Verizon says one additional stadium whose name has not been announced yet also will get 5G.
While service is limited today, the ultimate goal is to have 5G work throughout a stadium and out into the parking lots where fans tailgate.