The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

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By Thomas Hobbs, Journalist

March 25, 2020 | 5 min read

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The social distancing measures that have been implemented across the world as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak highlight why 5G is now so important, according to Mark Melling, Verizon Media’s 5G lead and head of RYOT Studio, EMEA. Watch the full session here.

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“Brands will have learned how vital 5G can be in bringing people together.”

Speaking in an interview with The Drum associate editor, Sonoo Singh, as part of The Drum’s Innovation Festival, Melling said “necessity will breed invention” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and that brands will start to wake up to the power of 5G when it comes to connecting people.

Bringing us all closer together

“We’ve seen how important video technology is going to be for people’s mental health throughout this pandemic,” he explained. “And when we finally come out of it all stronger, we will have found better ways to connect not only within the physical world, but within the virtual world too.

“Brands will have learned how vital 5G can be in bringing people together.”

When asked about the potential to use 5G to help with everyday experiences during self-isolation, Melling spoke of the potential to liven up typically dull conference calls between remote workers. “If you look at what Fortnite did, by successfully having the DJ Marshmello do a live gig within the game’s universe, well, that was a real look into the future,” he added. “The idea of a real event, but it taking place in a virtual world, is something that could, say, transform working from home.

“I could see the potential of virtual conferences and meetings where a team of history workers meet in the Louvre or sports journalists have a catch-up while standing in the middle of Old Trafford. 5G, in theory, will make all of this a reality. Once we create better connectivity through 5G, the potential impact on society is very exciting.”

Transforming fan experience

Melling is particularly excited by the idea of using 5G to transform the way fans experience live sport in a stadium. Although, for obvious reasons, this is more of a look into the future than the present, the Verizon Media man said that the “virtual black hole” that currently exists will one day be corrected. “I spend a lot of time with clubs and owners, and I can tell you they are frustrated right now,” he insisted.

“In a stadium, the experience for fans is really bad. As soon they walk into a 70,000-seated stadium they are basically entering a virtual black hole. In America, we’ve seen this happen in College American Football, where attendances have fallen over the last eight years.

“What do young people right now value more than even their own possessions? It’s sharing their experiences. And if you take this way then you’ll ultimately alienate them. 5G means you can have one million people connected to devices per square kilometre, so that means they can share their experiences and not worry about any delay. By adding a better connectivity in football stadiums, clubs are going to allow users to do what they love without any limitations.”

The power and potential of 5G

Talking about what this limitless world might look like, Melling said: “Coca Cola might sponsor a 5G VR function that allows you to see through the goalkeeper’s eyes as he tries to save a penalty in real time or we might be able to bring you onto the 50 yard line with Nike. 5G is going to offer such unique experiences.

He then concluded: “The industrial revolution was all about machines. The space age was about science and rockets. The information age is about computers and data. The 5G age is about taking all of this learning and applying it to make society smarter.

“5G will help us turn digital into something that’s frictionless to the everyday human experience.”

Watch the full session here.

Verizon Media will be opening its doors to its first 5G production-studio and facilities later this year to help brands explore the next-gen content opportunities 5G will bring.

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