News & Multimedia

Verizon 5G Portals Bring Fans Even Closer to Action at IMS

Innovation has been at the forefront of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s mission since the racetrack’s inception in 1909, and 112 years later a partnership with Verizon is taking that drive a lap toward the future.

The longstanding partnership reached new heights in 2021 as Verizon used its cutting-edge Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband service to create Verizon 5G portals at both the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in May and the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard NASCAR race in August.

With this AR-based experience, Verizon took race fans both at the racetrack and at home and transported them into the center of the action at two of the biggest motorsports events in the country. With high definition, 5G-enabled 360-degree cameras, fans were able to access an AR portal on their smartphones and be virtually transported to the racetrack.

Race fans using the Verizon 5G portal had the ability to choose their favorite camera angles or perspectives, which provided them with a unique, front row-style viewing experience.

From watching William Byron lead the field to green in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard from the pit wall to viewing the infield action on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course with non-traditional camera angles, it was a viewing experience race fans couldn’t get anywhere else.

“The 5G connectivity, the immersive nature, all of that combined is giving fans this new experience,” said Eric Greendyk, Verizon’s senior manager of technology. “Giving fans views that they otherwise might not be able to get is really what we’re after, whether you’re in person or at home. We want to give everyone new experiences powered by Verizon 5G.”

The portals come the year after Verizon and IMS teamed up to make the Racing Capital of the World one of the most advanced sporting facilities on the globe.

In 2020, IMS became the first and only motorsports facility in the world to offer commercial 5G connectivity through Verizon’s cutting-edge network, putting the Speedway on an exclusive list of sporting facilities and stadiums that feature Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network.

The Verizon 5G portals at IMS, which was also used during the 2020 Indianapolis 500 that featured no fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic, represent three of just a handful of 5G portals that the wireless network company has created for some of the biggest social and cultural events in the United States.

Other events for which the Verizon 5G portal has been used include the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the 2021 Oscars and the 2021 Global Citizen Vax Live concert.

Greendyk said a version of the Verizon 5G portal was in progress when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the company pivoted the portal to offer customers an opportunity to experience some of their favorite events in a safe and healthy way.

Plus, with 360-degree camera angles, it offered race fans the opportunity to view more than what was on track. For instance, once the NASCAR Cup Series field roared past the frontstretch camera, a viewer could adjust their camera angle in the AR portal to watch what was happening on pit lane.

“There’s tons of video out there, and it’s great for watching the action,” Greendyk said. “But sometimes, people are interested in something else besides the action or want to see a unique take on where broadcast cameras aren’t going to be placed.”

As the world looks to return to a sense of normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the cutting-edge network plans to take lessons learned from Verizon 5G portals at IMS and beyond and build it into an immersive supplement to users’ favorite events.

“We want to continue to give fans that never-before-seen view, give them access that otherwise they might not be able to get or afford via the power of our network,” Greendyk said.

Years from now, when AR, 360-degree video and additional unique content become commonplace in sports, race fans can look at the partnership between Verizon and IMS as one of the origins of what will hopefully become must-have content.

“Our partnership with IMS is a huge benefit to all of us,” Greendyk said. “Our 5G deployment at IMS is really a great opportunity to test out these kinds of experiences in the racing world. You don’t have that opportunity anywhere else.

“It gives us unparalleled access to try things out with racing versus other arena-based sports. It’s something we continue to improve upon, and we’re looking to do it as many times as we can and get user feedback. We want it to be across a breadth of experiences.”

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