The sun was shining over Zurich as the city prepared for the «grööscht Zürcher Volksfäscht» (the biggest fair in Zurich): the target-shooting competition Knabenschiessen. In addition, plans were in place to transform the Albisgüetli shooting range into a dazzling funfair for three days. The sweet aroma of the market stalls wafted across the festival grounds and the thrilling Chilbi rides brought shrieks of joy from visitors, as the young shooters gathered at the shooting range to put their marksmanship to the test. This year, more than 800,000 people flocked to the foot of the Üetliberg once again to enjoy rides, candyfloss and schnitzel sandwiches.
But Knabenschiessen isn’t just a big party; it puts the performance of the mobile network to the test as well. The huge number of visitors using their smartphones to make phone calls, send messages or browse the Internet pushes the public mobile network to its limits. This makes it all the more astonishing that 20 Minuten was right there in the thick of it and able to test the transmission of a seamless livestream on the public 5G network under real-life conditions for the first time and let others watch how Zurich celebrates Knabenschiessen. The aim was to gain experience for live coverage of major events in the future. How was this even possible?
MPN: safe, fast, flexible
The answer is mobile private networks (MPN) with network slicing. MPN, also known as private 5G or campus network, is more than just another mobile technology. Rather, it’s an innovative connectivity solution based on the new 5G Standalone (SA) mobile standard. It allows businesses to set up a dedicated mobile network infrastructure and thereby gain full control over connectivity at their chosen location.
This offers many advantages for businesses. Since exclusive access to a specified part of the public network is guaranteed, the data transmitted is protected at all times. In addition, MPNs provide fibre-level transmission speeds without restricting device mobility. Ultimately, this high data-transmission rate and low latency ensure uninterrupted real-time communication between machines, sensors or applications. Unlike traditional Wi-Fi infrastructures, MPNs can support up to one million connected devices per square kilometre, with a consistently high speed – guaranteed quality of service – during the data transfer.
Slicing: exclusive sections of the public 5G network
A powerful public 5G network alone wasn’t enough to meet the challenges of Knabenschiessen. This is where network slicing came into play. Network slicing makes it possible to divide the public 5G network into different virtual «slices» – meaning specific bandwidths in the network that can be reserved for tasks and workloads. Each of these virtual network segments is specifically tailored to the needs of the application or service. This meant that the media company 20 Minuten was able to use a dedicated segment of the 5G network to stream Knabenschiessen live and optimise the transmission of live video content with low latency and a consistently high bandwidth.
This also allowed 20 Minuten to exploit fully the advantages of MPNs and slicing: they were able to transmit the recordings securely while remaining flexible and mobile as they operated the 5G-enabled cameras across the site. And there was no need to rely on complicated Ethernet cabling or expensive satellite connections. Thanks to the mobile television studio, which in the past had to be set up on site in vans, the camerawoman was able to carry the equipment conveniently in a backpack wherever she went. And the private network slice allowed for the simultaneous and seamless transfer of data from multiple cameras and devices without bottlenecks.
Successful practical test thanks to Sunrise Business
The successful implementation of MPN and network slicing as a proof of concept (PoC) at Knabenschiessen was the result of close collaboration between Sunrise Business and the media company 20 Minuten. A real pioneer project: «When it comes to 5G slicing, we’re one of the leading companies – in Switzerland and perhaps even in the rest of Europe,» says Raphael Jäger, Senior Service Manager at Sunrise, who played a major role in implementing the project. «As far as I’m aware, a live test of 5G slicing, like the one we carried out at Knabenschiessen, hasn’t been performed anywhere else in Switzerland.»
What led to the test was the network challenge that 20 Minuten had encountered in previous situations: streaming on public mobile networks at major events. After brief but intensive discussions with the experts at Sunrise Business, they finally decided to give the still-young technology of network slicing a try.
This groundbreaking initiative in the Swiss entertainment industry reinforces the role of Sunrise as an integrator of technology solutions. «By working with our partners Visuals and LiveU, as well as network provider Huawei and our joint client TX Group (20 Minuten), we have now not only been able to prove how enriching such co-innovation projects can be, but also to provide a first proof of concept for 5G network slicing for live recordings in the entertainment industry,» says Daniele Cozza, who is jointly responsible for developing and integrating the pilot project.
The Sunrise team responsible for integrating the solution began by examining the technology through internal testing. The first device test with the cameras and the mobile video-streaming solution in Ambassador House at the Sunrise headquarters, where the network team provided a slice locally, proved to be a complete success – boosting confidence in the upcoming tests at Albisgüetli. However, setting up the MPN and providing the slices didn’t go quite as smoothly the day before Knabenschiessen. After updating firmware on the devices, the connection to the network slice was established on Friday morning.
On Friday, just in time for Knabenschiessen, the livestream was ready to start – but connection problems once again reared their ugly head. Thanks to energetic support from the manufacturer and the distributor of the transmitting units, we were finally able to resolve these difficulties. On Monday, we managed to livestream the event successfully. Despite the bumpy start, Sunrise considers this first proof of concept a success. «We’ve proved that 5G slicing works outside of a test environment and in far-from-ideal conditions,» says Raphael Jäger.
In addition, the PoC was performed exceptionally quickly – it took under three weeks to complete the technical set-up, including pre-tests, and to get it ready in time for the start of the major event. A masterful feat – and a testament to the flexibility with which all those responsible at Sunrise, 20 Minuten, the manufacturer of the transmitters and the distribution team worked together.
The future is all about «slicing on demand»
The Knabenschiessen livestream was just the beginning. Network slicing offers tremendous potential for companies in a broad range of industries. With dedicated MPN solutions, critical operational data can be processed safely and efficiently.
The use is by no means restricted to multimedia streaming: the virtual networks made available through slicing can be customised to meet the requirements of a wide variety of applications. These include Industry 4.0 with its connected plant and equipment, the healthcare sector for telemedicine purposes, public-safety services, blue-light organisations and many more. Whenever a stable network with low latency and high data throughput is needed in the public sphere, 5G slicing can offer a solution. In the future, the goal lies in making this possible on demand. While Knabenschiessen required a lot of manual configuration, slicing on demand will allow organisations to access segments of the public 5G network flexibly and as needed, without much effort from the providers.
The proof of concept at Knabenschiessen already shows that the future of network slicing is promising – and companies in a wide range of industries will benefit from its innovative possibilities. Sunrise Business is ready to accompany businesses on this exciting journey and shape the next wave of digital transformation.
Sunrise as an innovative technology partner
Private 5G networks are already being used in a variety of industries and demand is growing steadily, especially in manufacturing, entertainment, healthcare, transportation and logistics. Businesses can use the new technology as a self-managed solution or as a managed service. As a full-service provider, Sunrise Business works with world-class technology partners and provides support that ranges from conception and deployment through to operating and supporting private mobile networks.