According to research conducted by Ovum for Amdocs, a leading provider of software and services to communications and media companies, 87% of network operators 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, 82% of operators plan on offering IoT-related technology and services to tournament organizers in order to create efficiencies in stadium management. Over half (52%) of operators 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 anticipate clear overall commercial benefits from supporting major sports events with 5G. Nearly half (48%) believe that 5G will drive growth in terms of the average revenue per user (ARPU), and nearly a third (31%) say it will boost their enterprise business. Operators 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 42% 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.
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. Three quarters (75%) of operators 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 73% looking to partner with virtual reality app providers.
- 67% of operators plan to create partnerships with device manufacturers
- 50% of operators want partnerships with social media companies
- 50% of operators seek partnerships with tournament organizers
- 40% of operators intend to create partnerships with video game companies
“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 senior network decision makers were asked about anticipated network-related challenges regarding new 5G services for sports and esports, the main concern cited by over half (53%) of the respondents 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 40% of operators. In terms of IT-related challenges, end-to-end management of sports-related services was regarded as a key challenge by 64% of senior IT decision makers. This was followed by insufficient workforce to support evolving business and operational support systems (BSS/OSS) and operations cited by 42% of decision makers.
To help address these challenges, 40% of the decision makers see virtualized/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, 71% of decision makers see artificial intelligence and big data platforms, which assure quality of service and the ability to continuously personalize services, as the most critical to have.
“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.”