£5.7m 5G boost for British Esports National Performance Campus and Stadium of Light

Riverside and Sunderland Development 5G Esports Arena

£5.7m 5G boost for British Esports National Performance Campus and Stadium of Light

Adam McGowan
5 min read | 14 Sep 2023

British Esports’ National Esports Performance Campus (NEPC) and Sunderland AFC’s Stadium of Light have obtained £5.7m in grant funding to boost 5G connectivity in the area.

The funding has come from the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition, and will revolutionise the way people experience live sport and esports in Sunderland.

It’s one of 19 projects benefiting from today’s Government announcement of an £88m investment in innovative open 5G connectivity solutions across the UK.

The state-of-the-art ‘Sunderland Open Network EcosysTem’ (SONET) Project is led by Sunderland City Council and a consortium of partners: Boldyn Networks, British Esports, Sunderland AFC and Perform Green.

This funding will result in faster, more reliable 4G and 5G mobile connectivity at the Stadium of Light and the new British Esports National Performance Campus in Sunderland.

SONET are harnessing next generation technology to enable more engaging real-time interactions, allowing visitors to stay connected and benefit from more interactive, digitally enabled facilities and services. This can include enhanced ticketing processes to make entry easier and quicker, smart venue navigation to make it easier to find your seat or facilities and speeding up the browsing and ordering of food and beverages, as well as using augmented reality that can overlay real-world views with digital information such as, real-time identification of players, key moments and stats, or virtual reality that puts fans in an artificial but realistic 3D environment.

Furthermore, SONET will dramatically reduce power consumption through a much smaller footprint, positively contributing to Sunderland’s purposeful drive towards net zero across the city.

The funding for the SONET Project forms part of the Government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) £250m Open Networks R&D Fund, which is aimed at tackling the key barriers facing the adoption of open mobile networks.

Chester King, CEO at British Esports, commented; “I’m immensely proud of British Esports and our partners for securing the SONET 5G bid in Sunderland. This signifies a monumental leap forward for our new arena, part of the National Esports Performance Campus. With the power of 5G connectivity, we are poised to redefine the future of live esports and sports experiences. The Arena (opening Q1 2024) will become a centre for cutting-edge technology, offering players, fans, and enthusiasts an unparalleled environment for growth, engagement, and innovation. This milestone not only cements our commitment to the esports community but also reinforces our dedication to driving progress in the industry, both locally and on a global scale.”

National Esports Performance Campus will ‘lead the way globally’ following 5G boost


Liz St Louis, director of smart cities and enabling services at Sunderland City Council, added: “With no other esports venue in the world matching SONET’s unique Open RAN infrastructure, the National Esports Performance Campus will lead the way globally, significantly contributing to the UK’s capabilities.”

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, said: “The projects we’re backing today with £88 million in Government research and development investment will use innovative Open RAN solutions to make our mobile networks more adaptable and resilient, with future-proofed technology to support bringing lightning-fast connections across the country for many years to come.”

Sunderland AFC’s Chief Operating Officer, Steve Davison, commented: “This is fantastic news for the City of Sunderland and Sunderland AFC. We are a modern and progressive organisation constantly seeking new ways to embrace innovation and technology, and the SONET Project will unlock immense potential when considering our in-stadium experience.”

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