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Marseille and Orange target fan experience with Vélodrome 5G venture

French telecommunications company Orange and Olympique de Marseille have announced that the Ligue 1 football club’s home will become the country’s first 5G stadium.

The move marks the latest venture between Orange, which holds naming rights to the Stade Vélodrome, and Marseille. Since the announcement of the sponsorship deal in May 2016, Orange has WiFi-enabled the Vélodrome through the installation of 1,000 WiFi terminals in and around the 67,000-seat stadium.

The Orange Vélodrome application is set to launch in the next few weeks granting fans access inside the stadium to exclusive content via their smartphones. As part of Orange’s 5G trial in the city of Marseille, an experimental antenna has now been installed inside the stadium.

Sunday’s Ligue 1 match against Olympique Lyonnais will herald the start of a 5G innovation partnership designed to use the technology to further anticipate the needs of fans and corporate entities within the Vélodrome.

Orange has promised a total immersion experience for Sunday’s match, harnessing 5G to power VR content and a live 360-degree video stream in 8K quality. Another device will allow Orange guests to experience the game with an enhanced sound experience using Augmented Acoustics, a start-up accelerated by Orange Fab France.

The guests will be able to mix the audio sources of their choice such as the sound of the kick of the ball, the atmosphere in the stadium’s different stands and other content. Finally, Orange’s IoT (Internet of Things) solution, which collects and processes real-time data from sensors in the stadium, will enable the Vélodrome to improve its operational performance, optimise its energy footprint and enhance its environmental credentials.

The venture was unveiled at the Orange Business Tour event. “The Orange Vélodrome is one of the most connected stadiums in Europe,” said Jacques-Henri Eyraud, president of Olympique de Marseille, according to local newspaper La Provence. “The installation of 5G is a sacred achievement. Now, the hardest work begins to turn this technology into concrete applications that meet the needs of our supporters. We have lots of ideas and we will try to implement them very quickly.”

Pierre Clément, director of Orange France, said its 5G venture with Marseille will lead to further experiments in this field, with a view towards the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris. He continued: “This is a first experiment that we realise, but if we project ourselves in time, we will be able to propose… in a few months or years, differentiating and immersive experiences around sport, especially for the Olympic Games.

“What is important with 5G is that it opens the field of possibilities with the various actors. The key word is co-innovation because 5G is a new network that allows a lot of options thanks to the technical characteristics of this network, almost in real time. This opens up a vast range of possibilities.”

Eyraud added: “There is a real challenge around the experience we offer our visitors. With 5G and ultra-fast broadband, we will innovate to deliver a service and experience unique in France and in Europe. This Sunday, we will test virtual reality, augmented reality… short immersive experiences that may tomorrow serve spectators who are in the stadium or elsewhere.”