O2's head of sponsorship Gareth Griffiths has told Music Week the advent of 5G can "revolutionise" the live entertainment experience.
The mobile operator launched its 5G network in October last year and has predicted the technology could boost the live sector by £2.3 billion over the next 10 years.
"The potential for how people actually utilise 5G and use it in a live environment from an artist, through to to venues, through to promoters, through to ticketing, is endless really and it's something we're really excited about," said Griffiths.
"We're rolling out 5G now - we confirmed 20 cities in 2019 and we hit that. We've installed it at The O2 and we're installing it currently across all of our 19 O2 Academy venues as a priority, so we're making sure our O2 customers get to experience it first. The plan is to hit 50 cities this year as well so the roll out is now happening at haste, it's now real."
It's going to be a game-changer for the entertainment industry
Griffiths continued: "The handset manufacturers are bringing out 5G handsets, which will make it much more consumer-facing and our customers are interested, they like things quicker, faster, easier and that's what 5G technology's going to do, it's just going to make everything more seamless. It makes everything so much quicker and, with the stability of it, I think it's going to be a game-changer for the entertainment industry."
New research from the telecoms giant conducted alongside data consultancy Ovum suggests that developing technologies such as VR and AR will benefit from 5G. The new report, entitled 5th Generation Entertainment, forecasted significant change in the pre-show experience.
"Artists are always looking to connect with fans in a different way and 5G will just revolutionise that," said Griffiths. "I can see a lot happening after the show as well. Artists and venues won't just be letting fans walk out the door, they'll want to continue the conversation and interact with them after the show. I think it's going to revolutionise the live experience and will significantly boost the entertainment business."
The technology will also allow for ordering refreshments in advance, while higher speeds and stronger signals on 5G will enable quicker and easier sharing from gigs and fans will be able to create highlights reels post-show. AR-assisted shopping could lead to shorter queues at the merch stand, with customers able to order and sample what they want using VR before purchase.
"4G networks are fantastic and have revolutionised the way people consume content, but you do still get a bit of buffering when you load videos or log on to a Wi-Fi network," noted Griffiths. "5G is quicker than the human brain. so it will remove latency and people will be able to consume content immediately.
"The networks will be set up within high footfall locations like Twickenham Stadium or The O2, so a 5G network will be flawless in somewhere like that. It will be so quick so people will be able to communicate without any type of problems at all in high footfall areas.
"Being a technology company and a provider of 5G, and having the venues and music background that we have, we're really excited by what the future holds."
O2 has also recently made Priority Tickets for The O2 and all 20 O2 Academy venues fully digital.
"You can build a fan journey around that using 5G technology at venues," said Griffiths. "We're working with our partners, Ticketmaster and AXS, on thatand it will make the whole venue experience even better. The ultimate aim is making our customers experience better, making them enjoy the live experience even more because it's the best industry in the world to be in and anything we can do to help improve it is good for us."
And Griffiths said the business was beginning to open its eyes to the possibilities.
"Last year I think they still saw 5G as being quite a long way off," he said. "There's been a definite shift in 2020 already, though. Promoters and managers are starting to get really interested in terms of what the technology can actually do."