Network operators with 5G technology to be ‘vital players’ in sports and esports ecosystems, says new research

According to research conducted by Ovum for Amdocs, a provider of software and services to communications and media companies, 94% of network operators in Europe intend to deliver new 5G enterprise services to major live sports and esports event organisers. This is intended to help improve the fans’ experience and drive efficiencies inside the stadiums.

Operators view sports events such as the 2020 Euros and Tokyo Olympics as an opportunity to create new enterprise services grounded in 5G communications. For example, 88% of European operators taking part in the study plan on offering IoT-related technology and services to tournament organisers in order to create efficiencies in stadium management.

Over half (59%) plan to offer services that will improve the fan experience inside the sporting arena. This will include the ability to order food and beverages via mobile devices.

According to the research, European operators anticipate clear overall commercial benefits from supporting major sports events with 5G. Nearly half (48%) say that 5G will boost their enterprise business and 47% believe that it will drive growth in terms of the average revenue per user (ARPU).

European operators are also optimistic about the impact of 5G on sports-related businesses, particularly those that operate in the media space. More than half (53%) believe 5G will drive mainstream adoption of virtual reality services and 47% believe 5G will drive growth in sports TV subscribers.

The research surveyed C-level and other senior decision makers from 60 of the world’s 100 largest operators, including operators in Europe.

Partnerships offer a road into the sporting arena

To capitalise on their 5G investments, European operators will be relying on industry partnerships as they play a bigger role in sports and esports events. Three quarters (76%) plan on creating new partnerships with broadcasters and OTT service providers in their search to transform the delivery of sports coverage to consumers. Virtual reality will also play a part in this new experience, with 59% looking to partner with virtual reality app providers.

In addition:

  • 65% of European operators seek partnerships with tournament organisers
  • 59% of European operators plan to create partnerships with device manufacturers
  • 53% of European operators want partnerships with social media companies
  • 47% of European operators intend to create partnerships with augmented reality app providers
Gary Miles

“Operators see both short-term benefits in supporting sports with 5G, including growth in ARPU and their media business line, as well as longer-term benefits, such as enhanced brand appeal among younger demographics,” said Gary Miles, chief marketing officer, Amdocs.

“Furthermore, working with new types of partners on 5G and sports will give operators a vital role in a new digital business ecosystem. Out of a multitude of potential 5G use cases, our research shows that sports and esports is certainly among the most compelling.”

Network design and challenges

 When European operators were asked about anticipated network-related challenges regarding new 5G services for sports and esports, the main concern cited by three quarters (76%) of the operators centred on delivering the required levels of capacity and connectivity to support live HD video.

Indoor coverage at stadiums was also seen as a major challenge by more than a third (36%). In terms of IT-related challenges, end-to-end management of sports-related services was regarded as a key challenge by 64% of European operators. This was followed by scalability of business and operational support systems (BSS/OSS) cited by 42% of the operators.

To help address these challenges, 59% of European operators see virtualised/cloud RAN (radio access network) as the most important aspect of network design needed to deliver new 5G services and the first they plan to deploy. This architecture can provide more flexible, cost-effective, and highly distributed radio network coverage, while concentrating much of the RAN functionality away from the main venue. On the IT front, 76% of European operators see big data platforms, which can help assure quality of service and provide capabilities to continuously personalise services to customers, as the most critical to have.

“Given the massive investments that operators are pumping into 5G, their ability to monetise 5G to the fullest will be critical,” said Julian Bright, senior analyst at Ovum’s Intelligent Networks team. “To succeed in that, they need to keep sight of the commercial drivers and priorities when designing, planning and deploying their new networks and services.

They also need to ensure their IT environment can support the new architectures, standards and business models. According to our research, extensive systems upgrade and replacement, as well as reskilling of staff, will most likely be required to manage this exciting, yet complex transition.”

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