Asian 5G networks stand to be vital players in sports ecosystems

Image credit: Csaba Peterdi |

With 5G technology, network operators stand to become vital players in the sports and esports ecosystems, according to new research conducted by Ovum for Amdocs. It found that 81% of network operators in Asia Pacific intend to deliver new 5G enterprise services to major live sports and esports event organizers to help improve the fan experience and drive efficiencies inside the stadium. 

Operators view sports events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as an opportunity to create new enterprise services grounded in 5G communications. For example, 81% of operators in Asia Pacific also plan on offering IoT-related technology and services to tournament organizers in order to create efficiencies in stadium management. Over half (56%) 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, operators in Asia Pacific anticipate clear overall commercial benefits from supporting major sports events with 5G. Over 40% (44%) believe that 5G will drive growth in terms of the average revenue per user (ARPU), and nearly a third (32%) say it will boost their enterprise business. Operators in Asia Pacific are also optimistic about the impact of 5G on sports-related business lines, particularly media businesses. Half (50%) believe 5G will drive growth in sports TV subscribers and 43% believe 5G will drive mainstream adoption of virtual reality services.  

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

Partnerships offer a road into the sporting arena 

To capitalize on their 5G investments, operators will be relying on industry partnerships as they play a bigger role in sports and esports events. More than three quarters (81%) of operators in Asia Pacific 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 81% also looking to partner with virtual reality app providers. In addition: 

  • 81% of operators in Asia Pacific plan to create partnerships with device manufacturers
  • 64% of operators in Asia Pacific seek partnerships with sports venues
  • 56% of operators in Asia Pacific want partnerships with social media companies
  • 56% of operators in Asia Pacific intend to create partnerships with video game companies

Network design and challenges 

When operators in Asia Pacific were asked about anticipated network-related challenges regarding new 5G services for sports and esports, the main concern cited by over two thirds (69%) centered 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 56% of the operators. In terms of IT-related challenges, end-to-end management of sports-related services, as well as availability of business and operational support systems (BSS/OSS) to support evolving business models and partners, were regarded as key challenges by 44% of the operators. 

To help address these challenges, 44% of operators in Asia Pacific see small cells as the most important aspect of network design needed to deliver new 5G services and the first they plan to deploy. Small cells can provide more capacity, increased flexibility and enhance the user experience. On the IT front, 88% of operators in Asia Pacific see multi-domain orchestrators as the most critical to have, and 75% see network and data management systems as the most critical. These can help with the end to end management of 5G services. 

“Given the massive investments that operators are pumping into 5G, their ability to monetize 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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