Business | January 25, 2022

Ooredoo, Al Jazeera, beIN SPORTS and Microsoft Explore Potential of 5G in Live Sports Media and Broadcasting

Doha, Qatar

A consortium of locally based media and technology companies, including Ooredoo, Al Jazeera, beIN SPORTS and Microsoft, played a leading role in an International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) accelerator programme aimed at fostering collaborative innovation between the broadcasting and technology sectors to push forward new technologies and use cases.

The programme explored ways in which 5G can accelerate advances in cloud-based remote production for live sports, combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), to significantly enhance the fan experience both in the stadium and at home. With the world’s biggest and most prestigious football event, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM, on the horizon, learnings from the programme will be key to developing exciting new broadcasting capabilities.

By combining Ooredoo’s ground-breaking 5G network and Microsoft’s Azure Cloud technologies, coupled with beIN SPORTS and Al Jazeera’s broadcast expertise, the partners tested ways to dramatically improve the flexibility, speed and scalability in the delivery of live sports and news production.

The trials were conducted during the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021TM and at football matches hosted at Doha College to explore how new technologies can enable fans to curate their own experience of the game, from any seat or angle, and share their experiences in real-time with anyone, anywhere.

16 different camera feeds – including AI-enabled cameras, drones and stadium spectators’ mobile phones – were used to create a significantly richer choice of content accessible by broadcasters and fans alike. Ooredoo 5G mmWave was also trialled for the first time to address the challenges of high-speed and high-quality broadcasting.

Thani Ali Al Malki, Executive Director Business at Ooredoo, said: “With demand for enhanced, immersive, ever-better fan experiences at sporting and other events, it is critical that Ooredoo keeps itself abreast of both current technologies and future innovations to keep up with – and stay ahead of – this demand. Through this collaborative consortium, we have been able to trial a number of exciting technologies we believe will be integral to the immersive media revolution; technologies that will only benefit both the industry and our customers. We are delighted to work with Microsoft, Al Jazeera and beIN SPORTS on this exciting journey, which aligns perfectly with our corporate strategy of complete digitalisation and with our overall aim of supporting Qatar as it demonstrates its absolute capability to stage world-class events on a global scale.”

“With less than a year to run until the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM, we were keen to exploit IBC’s Accelerator programme to put 5G’s promise to the test,” said Ahmed Alfahad, Executive Director of Technology & Network Operations, Al Jazeera Media Networks. “We were particularly keen to unlock exciting new immersive experiences for fans as well as new creative production techniques for sports, news and events broadcasters. Working collaboratively with such a team of world-leading sports broadcasters, mobile networks and specialist production technology vendors to trial use cases at the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021TM, our learnings have been extensive, and we look forward to sharing some of the insights with IBC’s global audience of industry professionals.”

Commenting on this collaboration, Chief Technology Officer at beIN MEDIA GROUP Israel, Esteban Martí, said: “We take pride in being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to broadcast TV, and are always eager to find new ways of providing our subscribers with the very best sporting and entertainment experience possible. As we further head into the highly anticipated year of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM, this exciting collaboration with leading regional and international names in technology will allow our audiences to engage with sports like never before.”

The feeds that were delivered through Ooredoo’s 5G network from the match were carried over Microsoft ExpressRoute to the Microsoft Azure Data Centres, where they were digitally processed using Media ISV applications while employing Azure Kubernetes, video analytics, storage and networking services. The final processed output was then distributed using Azure CDN.

Lana Khalaf, General Manager Microsoft Qatar, said: “Emergence of critical, immersive and collaborative applications has accelerated adoption of use cases that combine the power of 5G with Azure cloud computing. To mark the celebrations of the Arab Cup and in anticipation of the major sporting event being held in Qatar, we teamed up with Ooredoo, Al Jazeera and beIN SPORTS to demonstrate 5G Remote Media Production use-case over Azure for the communications industry. 5G is the fabric that will connect the intelligent cloud with Intelligent Edge, and Microsoft Azure Qatar Data Centre cloud infused with AI and Machine Learning capabilities is the ideal platform to unlock 5G Edge, IoT and Smart City applications in Qatar’s digital economy.”

This IBC accelerator programme comprised of 8 champions (Al Jazeera, Ooredoo, beIN SPORTS, BBC Sport, BT Sport, Fox Sports, OBS and SuperSport), with participation from 9 vendors (Microsoft, AVIWEST, Evertz, Grass Valley, Mobile Viewpoint, NativeWaves, Net Insight, Taswer, and TVU Networks), and two academic partners (Doha College and Evolution Sports).

The project, part of the IBC’s acclaimed Accelerator Media Innovation programme, was presented on the IBC’s online platform, IBC Digital, where the industry convened virtually due to the physical event being cancelled in December. The event can be viewed at https://show.ibc.org/useful-info/ibc-digital.