National League and FA Cup matches will be broadcast through new 5G technology as early as next season.
BT Sport is already trialling 5G-enabled remote production, that will allow matches to be televised without outside broadcast trucks.
The shift will allow BT Sport – and other broadcasters – to transmit live using only fibre technology and a rucksack containing a 5G wifi router which will reduce broadcasting costs and allow highlights programmes like Match of the Day to be aired at tea-time rather than late evening.
BT Sport wants to launch the 5G service coverage next season, but the technology could eventually be employed to screen Premier League matches.
“This is such an interesting breakthrough,” BT Sport presenter Matt Smith told Press Association Sport.
“Even for a National League offering right now we’d be heading towards 80 to 100 people at the ground on a match day, with cameras, lines, crew; it’s very labour intensive. Whereas in trials so far we’ve been 20-strong.”
BT’s 5G remote production could prove a world first if it comes to fruition as expected next season. When 5G mobile technology comes on stream next year, a section of bandwidth will be ring-fenced for media and entertainment use.
This will let broadcasters use the technology for remote production confident there will be no compromise in quality of service.
BT Sport will look to use 5G remote production across their National League, women’s football and FA Cup coverage from next season, allowing an increase in televised matches.
BT Sport’s chief operating officer Jamie Hindhaugh expects the broadcasting industry as a whole to jump at the chance to employ the 5G technology.
“The protected slice of bandwidth gives you surety of signal regardless of the number of people in the stadium,” Hindhaugh told Press Association Sport.
“There’s no going back for us, this is how we will be producing more and more games going forward. It will be every level eventually; 5G will enable us to unlock more cameras, more capability.
“This is a unique opportunity to help the broadcast industry learn and adapt to the technology. It will enable other broadcasters to adopt that technology; it’s not something we would be keeping to ourselves.”
Chief engineer at BT Sport Andy Beale explained how 5G tech will allow far greater freedom of camera movement.
“We can achieve the effect of 10 cameras with four or five,” Beale told Press Association Sport.
“The cameras will no longer be limited by cables, or tethered, so they can move around anywhere. So you could start the show in the dressing room, then move straight out to watch the teams warming up.
“Suddenly it unlocks a lot more interesting options that you couldn’t have had previously.”