December 11, 2019

CSPs Capitalize on Immersive Experiences for Sports Fans

5G networks enabled by agile rating and charging will create a host of new revenue opportunities for service providers.

Digital technologies are already widely used at sports venues, which is reflected by the tremendous network data traffic typically seen during major events. Over the coming years, these digital technologies will be transformed with high resolution video, augmented and virtual reality, accurate proximity rendering and artificial intelligence. These technologies will be coupled with Wi-Fi 6, 5G and edge computing to enable immersive experiences for mobile users at sporting events.

Given that fans are willing to pay extra for premium experiences at sporting events, there are tremendous incremental revenues in the offing for those who deliver the right immersive experiences. To succeed, experiences must be seamless and personalized and regularly refreshed with new and interesting capabilities. This requires agile, developer-friendly and self-service platform solutions with high bandwidth and low latency.

It’s Not Just a Game Anymore

If they play their cards right, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are well positioned to capitalize on the digital transformation of sports stadiums and venues. But this is easier said than done. CSPs must navigate the complex technical and commercial landscapes needed to enable reliable and seamless solutions for their customers. Close cooperation and commercial partnerships with ecosystem stakeholders are essential. These stakeholders are likely to include venue and sports team owners, other CSPs, neutral host network and infrastructure providers, technology vendors, systems integrators and application developers.

Agile pricing, collections, settlement and revenue sharing capabilities must be enabled by the CSPs to ensure that the business processes needed for sports venue services can be supported. As new services are developed, efficient, secure and reliable onboarding is essential. Furthermore, sports venues will likely be one of many digital services opportunities that CSPs pursue in the coming years. Business support systems (BSS) require flexible architectures with consistent and reusable capabilities to simultaneously address existing services and new business opportunities as they emerge. These capabilities cannot be achieved without BSS transformation to eliminate legacy operational silos. They also depend on extensive automation to enable zero-touch provisioning, flexible rating and charging and to abstract the complexity of the underlying business processes involved.

The network infrastructure deployed today will require upgrades to support high bandwidth and low latency demands for immersive digital services. Distributed antenna systems (DAS) must be upgraded with fiber transport. High-performance wireless connectivity such as Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are also needed. Both bring tremendous bandwidth and capacity gains. 5G can be tightly integrated with multi-access edge computing (MEC) and enables control and user-plane separation, which is needed for low latency connectivity to mobile devices. 5G also incorporates network slicing capabilities to efficiently orchestrate network resources according to service demands.

Optimizing the Network for Next-Gen Commercial Services

Ideally, all the immersive services deployed in a stadium will be simultaneously supported by all CSPs that provide mobile services. However, this is unlikely since CSPs typically have different market strategies, and it creates challenges for other stakeholders, most notably venue owners and sports brands who will be eager for their immersive services to reach as many fans as possible. In some cases, this will likely result in over-the-top (OTT) implementations. However, when 5G is needed for low latency connections and private 5G radio spectrum (e.g. CBRS) is not available, CSPs need to be engaged. Ordinarily, when a mobile device establishes a network connection, it will be terminated in an operator’s network core. To achieve low latency connections, CSPs must provision control/user-plane separation to ensure that the user’s connection only traverses the short trip to an edge computing platform rather than to the network core.

Most of the technology needed to create immersive experiences at live sporting events is already available, or will be available, within the next 12 to 24 months. However, we expect that the industry has many hard-fought battles ahead as it hammers out the collaboration and partnership agreements needed to bring commercial services to market. As these battles are fought, it is crucial that ecosystem stakeholders recognize the tremendous service revenue and market opportunities in these offerings.

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