[PyeongChang 2018] Hard to follow cross-country skiing? 5G is here to help

By Sohn Ji-young

Published : Feb 14, 2018 - 09:26
Updated : Feb 19, 2018 - 19:13

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province -- On Sunday, thousands of spectators anxiously waited in the cold at the Winter Olympics men’s 30-kilometer cross-country skiing skiathlon finals to witness their favorite athletes in action as they vied for gold.

Throughout the endurance race lasting over an hour, the audience at the scene had no choice but to watch the main big screen to see where and what the athletes were doing. And more, the cameras focused only on those in the lead, so if your country’s athlete was lagging, you were probably out of luck.

However, this myopic experience is about to change with the help of the ultra-fast 5G network, which will form the basis of a novel video streaming service that lets spectators find their cross-country skier’s location across the entire track, as well as view their changing status, in real time.

Video shot and edited by Lim Jeong-yeo

This 5G-dependent sports video streaming service, dubbed “omnipoint view” was operated live and offered during Sunday’s men’s 30-km cross-country skiing finals by South Korean carrier KT, the network communications partner for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

KT’s 5G ICT Zone at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre was bustling with visitors Sunday. Many had initially stepped in seeking a warm place, but left with newfound knowledge of 5G and South Korea’s network capabilities.

Short for fifth generation, 5G is a next-generation network designed to be at least 10 times as fast as today’s 4G Long Term Evolution network, promising download speeds of up to 20 gigabytes per second and a response time of less than 0.0001 second.

Because 5G can handle large amounts of data with ultra-low latency, it is set to form the basis of various data-heavy, live-streaming services that require seamless connectivity without lags.

One of them is the omnipoint view featured at the cross-country skiing tournament. It’s a 5G-dependent live broadcast service that can host multiple live feeds at once, developed by KT for the Winter Olympics. 


On 5G-enabled tablets, viewers can track the real-time location of an athlete, equipped with a GPS tracker, on a 3-D map of the entire cross-country skiing course. 

Olympic athletes compete in the men’s 30-kilometer cross-country skiathlon finals at the Alpensia Cross Country Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Sunday. (Lim Jeong-yo/The Korea Herald)



By clicking on a particular athlete, viewers can look at the person’s information, time records for each lap, as well as follow an animated viewpoint of that athlete moving on the cross-country course. There are even 5G virtual reality headsets that let people follow the athlete’s view live.

For each athlete, a separate video box shows footage taken from a camera located nearest to the athlete moving on the course, offering a more personalized view.

“Cross-country skiing is a sport that involves athletes skiing through the mountains and hills which spectators cannot see. Given the limitations, we want to enable viewers see where exactly their athletes are and follow their moves in real time, creating a more interactive way of enjoying sports,” explained a KT official present at the scene.

Visitors, both international and local, were impressed by the 5G technology displayed on the scene.

“It’s very realistic. I even got the vibrating sensation that added to the realness of it all. I could see the athletes’ information in front of me that showed who they were, and where they were on the track,” said Jeong Guk-hee, a 18-year-old Korean student, after trying on a 5G-enabled VR headset.

A KT official demonstrates omnipoint view during the Olympics men’s 30-kilometer cross-country skiathlon finals held at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Sunday. (Lim Jeong-yo/The Korea Herald)



In addition to omnipoint view, KT has also applied another 5G-dependent video technology called “interactive time slice” during the Winter Olympics broadcast.

Interactive time slice, applied to the short track speedskating events, is a 5G-dependent video streaming technology that lets viewers control the time, target and angle of the footage as they view live. It is formed through video footage captured at 180-degree angles using 100 cameras.

With time slice, a person viewing a live-streamed short track speedskating game can halt the screen at any time to see a particular moment or turn different angles and points in time, similar to the famous frozen-in-time moments from blockbuster movie “The Matrix.”

During the Winter Olympics, the time slice feature was picked up by local broadcasters in delivering a more interactive analysis of the short track speedskating match, according to KT.

Other 5G services at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics include sync view, used for bobsled events, that transmits live footage from the athletes’ point of view as they race down the tracks. 

A visitor to KT’s 5G ICT Zone at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre experiences omnipoint view, a 5G-dependent video service, during the men’s 30-kilometer cross-country skiathlon finals, Sunday. (Lim Jeong-yo/The Korea Herald)



KT, in partnership with Intel, is also recording footage to create 360-degree VR live videos for hockey and snowboarding. It will let viewers watch the events in VR by strapping on a 5G-connected VR headset.

In partnership with Intel and Samsung Electronics, KT has deployed the world’s first large-scale 5G trial network in PyeongChang, with aims to offer an early glimpse of the new technologies and services that will be enabled by the next-generation network.

KT’s 5G trial network will offer digital communications at 28 gigahertz, which offers more bandwidth than traditionally cellular channels that stand at below 6 GHz.

The next-generation network is expected to be commercially deployed across the world by around late 2019, after the 3GPP -- the organization that develops global cellular standards -- finalizes its technical specifications for 5G.

By Sohn Ji-young (jys@heraldcorp.com)

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The Korea Herald by Herald Corporation