Leading organisations from across the UK’s arts, entertainment and technology industries are collaborating to create the first ever hybrid 5G Festival.

The 5G Festival will be a showcase of creative talent blended with advanced digital technologies, and broadcast live directly to audiences at remote locations from venues, as well as producing immersive in-venue experiences.

The festival is led by Digital Catapult, Warner Music Group, Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, Wired Sussex, O2,  Sonosphere, Audiotonix, Mativision and LiveFrom.

As part of the wider £200 million 5G testbeds and trials programme (5GTT) funded by the UK Government, the 5G Festival will produce a 5G powered, live immersive collaboration platform for artists and enrich the live festival experience for audiences at home and in venue. 5G Festival is using 5G and its ability to transmit with low latency (delay) and in ultra-high bandwidth to allow physically separate artists to produce immersive live, collaborative performances across multiple venues with a live and remote immersive environment. In practice, this means musicians can perform together from different venues at the same time, completely in-sync with one another, and audiences can have a wider choice of where and how they can experience live music.

The core 5G infrastructure is based on Digital Catapult’s 5G Testbed, which spans three sites across Brighton and London, and offers technologically complete end-to-end, standards compliant, commercial and open source network services. 5G Festival will use Mativision’s network-ready 360° content distribution platform and O2’s public 5G network to support the scale of the project. 5G Festival will also explore opportunities for digital transformation and capability building for the UK’s live music, festivals and events sector. Finally, The O2 Lab will be developing the customer facing mobile application for the project. Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival is using its world-leading arts festival design and production to create a showcase event with artists distributed over multiple physical venues and virtual spaces.

In March 2021, the first trials experimented with the effects of audio latency (the delay in the amount of time is takes for sound to get from its source to a listener’s ears – i.e. from one musician to another) on the performers’ ability to play together, dialling the amount of delay (latency) up and down to showcase the power of 5G technology and test the musicians’ and singers’ ability to cope with latency, as well as what the delay limits were before a performance fell apart. The next trials will take place during June 2021, with a final showcase event planned for early 2022.

Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult said: “COVID-19 has denied us all the buzz of going to live shows. 5G Festival aims to change our view of how to enjoy a live performance as the project looks to create the world’s first internationally accessible, immersive live festival experience powered by 5G. This ambitious project aims both to help artists collaborate and create new music, and then to enable audiences to see their favourite artist, safely in-person at one of the UK’s best venues or from the comfort of their own home, in a totally new and different way.”

Tiago Correia, director, new business and ventures at Warner Music, said: “Something beautiful happened during lockdown: We saw artists, writers and producers collaborate remotely like never before. But without the proper tools and network to do so, that creativity will always be limited. Which is why we’re incredibly excited about the goal that this consortium has: to give our artists the ability to collaborate in real-time and their fans a unique live experience, all powered by 5G.”

According to the consortium, 5G Festival will help create a more diversified, sustainable live music industry with increased opportunities to reach new users (artists/creators) and audiences (fans) by using the latest available and developing technologies, helping to not only future-proof business models for venues and festivals adversely affected by global risks (such as coronavirus and climate change), but provide safe, creation/performance environment for artists and valuable, high-quality, immersive experiences to audiences wherever they are around the world.