Verizon 5G armed and ready for the big game—Super Bowl LVI (Analyst Angle)

When the Super Bowl fever is gripping the country, and everybody is looking forward to the first major public sports event coming out of the Omicron wave, the timing couldn’t have been better for Verizon to showcase its preparedness and 5G prowess. It opened the doors to its impressive 5G lab and command center in Los Angles to a select few media and analysts. I was fortunate to be one of them. The tour of facilities, followed by executive Q&A, gave an excellent view of Verizon’s preparedness as well as a glimpse of the 5G future.

Preparedness for the big game

SoFi stadium, the venue of this year’s Super Bowl, is one of the most highly connected stadiums in the world. Verizon has been working on stadium connectivity for several years. Two things showcase that work. First, covering the entire stadium with mmWave, and second, spending more than $119 million for providing solid 5G coverage and capacity in and around the stadium using its new c-band spectrum. 

Verizon said it has deployed 169 new small cells, four new macro cell sites, and 24 new in-building systems to cater to the flood of traffic generated by the enthusiastic fans before, during, and after the event. “We are ready,” said Philip French, VP of Network Engineering, while giving the tour of the busy command center located inside a nondescript building close to LAX International Airport.  

The network is also fortified in critical areas where the fans are expected to stay and congregate during their visit. These include nearly hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and other hangout places. Phill added that Verizon’s 24/7 operating command center will be monitoring the network performance even more closely during the event and will be in constant touch with the public safety and emergency agencies. 

One exciting thing where Verizon’s investment in the stadium is paying off is a feature called “Multi-View” that will supercharge the second screen experience in the stadium. Multi-View provides up to seven different camera angles simultaneously, instant replays, and the ability to project AR overlays of the NFL’s stats for players. These angles and replays may not even be available on the jumbotron—all at the touch of a button on your smartphone. 

Offering Multi-View to a large number of Verizon customers in the stadium without lag requires tons of capacity and lower latency. Brian Mecum, VP of Device Technology, explained passionately how this was made possible by the 5G mmWave deployments in the stadium and, of course, supported by c-band. Multi-View can be found in the NFL Ticketholder app and is available on select new 5G phones.

A suite of public safety and emergency solutions

Verizon also showcased its suite of public safety and emergency communications solutions, including the impressive Tactical Humanitarian Operations Response (THOR) vehicle. THOR is a mobile, self-sufficient 5G rapid-response command center. It offers 5G Ultra Wideband Private Network with a satellite backhaul and a long list of services to assist in emergency or disaster situations. 

Also displayed were cell site on wheels, a two-sector 4G and Wi-Fi services trailer with a satellite backhaul, vehicle-mounted Mobile Edge Compute (MEC), and a satellite backhaul van that can keep the cell sites up even if the fiber backhaul fails.

Many of these things will be deployed during the Superbowl. 

Imagining and creating the future in 5G lab

The last stop of the visit was Verizon’s 5G lab, one of the many they have opened across the country. The lab Director Christian Guirnalda explained that this is where Verizon imagines and creates the future of future 5G experience and attempts to bring the grand 5G vision to reality. Verizon works with many partners to put these experiences together. 

The demonstrations included immersive entertainment, connected venues, building security, connected sports training and player performance monitoring, cashier-less stores, and other concepts, all enabled by 5G and MEC. Christian pointed out that some of these concepts have already graduated to commercial reality. 

Verizon was trying to project that although 5G connectivity is critical, they are working hard to bring the entire ecosystem and offer end-to-end solutions to its customers, especially enterprise customers. That makes sense considering that in 4G, the OTT players took away most of the value, making cellular operators simple dumb pipe providers. But it seems Verizon is determined and prepared not to repeat that with 5G. Instead, it is imagining and driving next-generation experiences of 5G that create value for its customers and its own.     

The visit concluded with a round-table discussion and Q&A with some of Verizon’s key executives, including Massimo Peselli – SVP, Global Enterprise, Debika Bhattacharya – SVP, 5G & Enterprise Solutions, Brian Higgins – Senior Vice President of Device & Consumer Product Marketing. and Brian Mecum, VP Device Technology.

The discussion was around how technologies and experiences that Verizon has worked hard to implement at the venue for the Superbowl are directly transferable to many of the industry verticals and enterprises Verizon is looking to serve. For example, immersive technologies like Multi-View could be enabled for second screens in homes when watching games on the TV. The crowd management solution enabled by 5G and MEC could be used for venue management. The cashier-less store concept used for concession stands and merchandise stores is almost universal and applicable for a variety of locations and circumstances, and so on.

In closing

The demonstrations, Q&A, and the entire visit were very informative. It gave a glimpse of Verizon’s preparedness for the big event and the care it has taken to ensure an immersive and enjoyable 5G connectivity experience for the Super Bowl LVI visitors. It also provided a peek into Verizon’s vision and strategy to take 5G beyond smartphones and broadband to many enterprises and industry verticals. We will know how their preparedness fared very soon!

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