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T-Mobile Taps Open Innovation To Transform Live Event Audio With 5G & Edge

by User Not Found | Sep 01, 2022

T-Mobile USA is the latest operator to demonstrate how advanced network capabilities, like 5G and edge, have potential to transform live event experiences for service providers. So far, many of demonstrations have focused on enhancing live viewing through visual experiences, such as 5G for video contribution to capture footage using 5G enabled video cameras, enabling 360 degree viewing of sports events and concerts so audiences can experience the action from multiple angles, overlaying relevant and useful content using AR and MR, and others. The 5G EDGE XR project in the UK, which involved BT as one on multiple partners, and Digital VISTA, which involved Virgin Media O2, also in the UK, demonstrate the potential impact of 5G across different types of events.

T-Mobile Gives Audio A 5G Sound Check

However, T-Mobile USA’s demonstration of technology from start-up, Mixhalo*, shows how 5G can enable new audio experiences for live event attendees. T-Mobile demonstrated the technology at a concert held at its HQ in Bellville, Washington. Mixhalo’s server was installed at the network edge to keep latency to a minimum.

Mixhalo, delivers the audio experience which on-stage performers have access to through their ear monitors/ ear buds to audiences via wireless technology, which is currently Wi-Fi. According to T-Mobile, 5G provides a strong alternative to Wi-Fi due to its low latency and high capacity. 5G’s low latency delivers quality sound experiences in real-time to those closest to the stage and those at the back, while eliminating the potential echo when ear-bud and speaker audio are out of sync due to slow a slow network. If you’ve ever paid a premium for a ticket to see your favourite performer, but have been let down by venue acoustics, or have tickets for the back or upper tiers of the stadium, then you’ll understand how ear buds could transform the audio experience. During the concert Mixhalo also switched the speakers off, sending the audio exclusively through the Mixhalo app, enabling what T-Mobile describes as a silent 5G concert.      

Mixhalo’s solution could also offer different content channels, for example, hearing band members banter before they get on stage, or even useful venue related information and public safety notifications. A broad range use-cases also exist, including providing enhancements to those requiring assistive hearing in busy and noisy locations such as airports, bus/ rail stations, conferences, malls, theatres/ cinemas, and tours. Strategy Analytics estimates a total addressable market of 60 m public locations across the US that could benefit from broadcast audio in a report about a competing solution based on Bluetooth, called Auracast.  

In my opinion there is an opportunity to charge live event attendees a little extra for the improved audio - either bundled into the ticket price, or as a value-added option, depending on the premium attached. A survey of consumers about innovative audio conducted by Strategy Analytics during 2021 highlighted a surprisingly high number (36%) of consumers already watch TV with headphones, while 10% indicated a willingness-to-pay more for spatial audio when consuming media, but as high as 15% and 16% to enhance the VR and gaming experiences, respectively.

5G is not the only wireless technology to broadcast enhanced audio at scale. Bluetooth LE Audio supports a capability called Auracast™, which enables audio transmitters to broadcast audio to an unlimited number of nearby Bluetooth receivers. So, while Mixhalo’s solution demonstrates 5G ability to support enhanced audio, it also raises several questions about the extent to which it can be commercialized by 5G operators. For example, what is the overall cost and ROI of deployment versus alternative technologies, like Auracast and Wi-Fi? Which technology delivers the best fit for different types of venues and scenarios? How do these competing technologies compare in terms of range and quality? Which technology is the quickest to deploy and will consumers or venue owners be prepared to pay any premium to enable enhanced sound experiences?

* Mixhalo was able to benefit from being involved in T-Mobile’s 5G Open Innovation Lab. Strategy Analytics report, ‘Telcos Turn To Start-Ups & Open Innovation To Reignite Failing 5G Ambitions’ highlights how a growing number of telcos are turning to open innovation to energise the start-up community to create technology and use cases that leverage some of the low latency, high capacity, and guaranteed QoS, capabilities (among others) offered by 5G.     

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