We haven’t spent much time in stadiums this year, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to cheer on your favourite team in the future. That’s why we’re working with our friends at the AFL to make Marvel Stadium one of the most advanced in the world. Here’s what the future of in-person sport might look like.

Our deal announced today means we’re deepening our partnership with the AFL through to 2024. This includes AFL’s digital assets like their websites, the official app, and sponsorship elements. One other exciting aspect of the deal are the changes we’re looking to make at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

As part of the deal, we’ll be working with the AFL to upgrade its network and technology to make it one of the world’s most advanced stadiums. We’re talking 4G and 5G upgrades, artificial intelligence, mixed reality and edge computing applications at the ground.

As the sport and the way fans consume it rapidly changes and evolves, we want to make sure the in-person experience is just as advanced and modern.

We thought we’d celebrate today’s announcement by gazing into the crystal ball to imagine what the in-person sport experience could look like in the future.

Fast facts at your fingertips

If you love sports and stats, your phone could become the portal to all kinds of information in the stadium of the future. Opening an app could give you a world of new information about your favourite players.

In fact, we already have great tech on the field tracking the performance of the players in the form of our Telstra Tracker.

The Telstra Tracker combines technology and sport to bring fans closer to the game with live player insights. It tracks including player speed, intensity and ground coverage.

For example, did you know that if you combine the running efforts of all players across the regular AFL season in 2019, the players would have travelled a combined total of 111,628 kilometres? That’s over a third of the way to the Moon!

Getting access to this sort of data in real time could be a possibility for the future of footy and further enhancing the sporting experience for hardcore fans.

In-stadium streaming

Being at the stadium means you can get be closer to your favourite teams. But from your seat, you may miss some of the action on the field because of your distance or elevation. With faster networking in stadiums, you may not ever miss a single detail ever again.

If future sporting and entertainment stadiums have fast5G or WiFi networks capable of transmitting high-res video to thousands of many devices at once, this means you can view the game – and watch all the highlights – at different angles when you’re on the stadium seat, so you can catch all the action. Goodbye, FM radio for listening to commentary from your seat!

And with cameras becoming smaller and smaller, we may see players wearing them for a first-person view of the game, or even have one built into the ball, umpire, or goal post!

Future food

What would the footy be without iconic stadium feeds?

In the future, using an app or AR, we may be able to see all the food and drink vendors around the stadium, with distance indicators showing the closest choice, with the quickest lines, and the route to get there.

From there you may be able to place a pick-up order from your seat to help beat the queue. Alternatively, you may even be able to get food delivered directly to your seat (first with people and then maybe with robots). How easy and convenient could that be!

AI on the field

With a range of sensors, 4K cameras and other measurement equipment on the field, umpires may get more help than ever thanks to faster data processing and edge computing.

Edge computing sees data and computational activities normally processed at a distance in the cloud moved “closer” to where you need it. That way your data is processed quickly and arrives back faster. That means you can have thinner, lighter and more connected devices do more than ever.

Umpires of the future could take advantage of the amount of data available to create eyes in the back of their heads. Umpires could use their virtual duplicate – which is collating data from all over the ground – to have absolute certainty on a call, making the game faster and fairer for everyone.

Augmented reality

Augmented Reality – or AR for short – is an incredible way to mix virtual experiences into the real world. It’s a very cool, immersive and powerful technology, and while some innovative applications of it so far have been the wildly successful Pokémon Go game, using filters on Snapchat, or even place furniture around your home, through our partnership with the AFL we’ve enhanced what we hope is the first of many currently static features of the app using AR.

In the stadium of the future, you may be able to open the official sport or stadium app, hold it up in front of you and see the names and stats of players running around the field in real time.

This could be an exciting new frontier for the way we bring in-depth sporting content to Aussies. It builds on a long and proud history of blending sport and technology together to bring the game, and all the peripheral aspects of it, to fans in new and better ways.

Connectivity you can depend on

Of course, none of this is possible without upgrades to the networks that support the stadium of the future. Right now, we have both 4G and 5G in select stadiums around the nation, including at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

The stats around our 5G upgrade at the ‘G tell us exactly how essential strong connectivity is when an event is on.

Crowds of up to 100,000 pack the MCG during big events, and in 2018 alone we saw a massive 3.8 terabytes of data sent over our mobile network from the MCG alone. That’s up 22% from 2017, demonstrating that people are more and more connected when they’re at the match.

To put it in perspective, all that data is equivalent to 1200 hours of HD video content or 27 billion SMS messages.

That’s why one of the most important upgrades we’ll be working on at Marvel Stadium is a 5G upgrade to support potential future applications to truly evolve the stadium experience. From booking a seat to parking to engaging with the game, attendees will be soon be able to experience a new stadium experience before, during, and after they attend the game.