Are Asia’s mobile networks ready for next-gen sports viewing?

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Image credit: adriaticfoto | shutterstock.com

Asia’s sports fans are looking forward to another busy year. Large scale sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup, Formula 1, Premiere League, and 2020 Summer Olympics will be extensively digitized as broadcasters maintain pace with how tech-savvy sports fans watch the action.

In today’s digital age, sports aficionados consume live-streamed videos while on-the-go, as never before. eMarketer estimates that 78.4% of viewers worldwide will regularly watch videos on their mobile phones. 5G, with its promise of faster and more reliable connections and low latency to allow near-instantaneous mobile communication, is expected to deliver sports fans with high-quality viewing experiences without network glitches.

With 5G networks set to arrive in more than 15 Asian markets by the end of 2020, according to GSMA, consumers will enjoy an even stronger engagement with the latest sporting events. As more and more people watch sports from their mobile devices, how can service providers ensure viewers will enjoy a high-quality viewing experience over networks that are experiencing extraordinary levels of traffic growth?

Unprecedented pressure on network capacity

The 2016 Rio Olympics saw more than 9 million hours of content streamed on Olympic Video Player, with as many as 1 million daily unique viewers for live streaming and on-demand video, which will only increase during the 2020 Summer Olympics. Today’s networks are often include rigid legacy systems and protocols, leaving them unable to rapidly scale. Further, they aren’t designed to adjust to growing and unpredictable demands, as more consumers flock online.

To address these evolving preferences for watching sporting events, service providers are embracing digital transformation to enable seamless delivery of live games to subscribers. This includes an end-to-end network guided by analytics and intent-based policies to rapidly scale, self-configure, and self-optimize by constantly assessing demand – when millions tune in to watch the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympics, for example.

5G-ready networks – it’s all in the groundwork

Most service providers are faced with a multi-generation reality. Their network infrastructure has evolved over the years and includes equipment from several vendors and different generations of technology, resulting in low efficiencies and reduced service velocity. To deliver the quality of experience and high-capacity connectivity that is the promise of 5G, a mere evolution from 4G is not sufficient – service providers need to modernize their end-to-end network architecture. They must push fiber closer to subscribers while distributing and virtualizing network functions efficiently.

Unlike previous generations of mobile technology, 5G demands that service providers place compute and storage resources closer to mobile subscribers to ensure a high quality, low-latency experience.

Sprinting to a programmable network

Service providers must ensure their networks leverage programmable infrastructure that can be accessed and configured, when and where required, via open standards-based Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This enables the ability to dynamically adjust resources to meet the demands of the applications being served, and to avoid vendor lock-in. It can offer comprehensive performance reporting in real-time too, allowing adjustments in service levels, as needed. This allows service providers to increase capacity for extremely popular events, like the 100-metre sprint final, while decreasing it to normal levels during other events.

Creating a 5G-ready network with comprehensive adaptive functionality requires an evolution of the service providers’ current network environments. Each service provider will have a different starting point, depending upon their current network infrastructure, market dynamics, and business objectives, meaning their migration and modernization journeys will be different.

It is essential they create a roadmap towards a network that can scale from both capacity and operational perspectives — transporting maximum capacity using minimal equipment to get the most efficiency from fiber assets and using software-based control to offer the ability to automate processes.

Service providers must embark on this journey today starting with discussions with network experts within an ecosystem of technology partners to ensure their networks are ready to support fans and unleash new revenue streams for the sporting action in the years to come.

Anup ChangarothWritten by Anup Changaroth, Asia Pacific & Japan, Chief Technology Officer, Ciena

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