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In today's digitally connected world, there is a higher demand than ever for real-time information, communication and media consumption during sporting events. This is especially true in the Asia-Pacific region, where some of the biggest and most-viewed sporting events occur. Such a media appetite can include fans sharing their excitement on social media, journalists providing live updates on various platforms, and organizers coordinating logistics behind the scenes. The need for seamless connectivity is crucial in order to meet these various and far-reaching demands.

Next-generation networks are already predicted to revolutionize the industry and gaming sectors. However, when it comes to sports, the combination of 5G, private networks and advanced broadcasting technology is generating new opportunities for network operators as well.

Major sporting events like the Olympics, World Cup and Super Bowl are increasingly being used as platforms for the debut of new technologies. The 2018 Winter Olympics, for example, showcased the global introduction of 5G; the 2018 FIFA World Cup utilized eSIMS for enhanced security; and the 2021 Super Bowl utilized 4K and 8K streaming to create immersive viewing experiences for fans watching at home.

Since the debut of 5G at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea by KT Corp., 181 operators worldwide have launched such 5G services, according to Ookla's Global 5G Map. 5G has for some time been seen as a way to improve various aspects such as logistics and gaming; now it is set to also enhance connectivity in stadiums. According to Peter Gray, senior vice president of advanced technology group (Sport), NTT, there are two significant aspects of this technology. The first is improving the fan experience, while the second is using private 5G for event management and operations.

NTT has made this a major focus and, to this end, launched the first globally available private 5G network-as-a-service platform in August. This platform provides dedicated and secure infrastructure that can be scaled on demand to address challenges for businesses and offer interactive experiences. Gray explains that this technology enables new ways of streaming videos from onboard cameras, including 3D streaming.

As we move towards a more connected IoT-enabled world, leveraging a secure network becomes crucial for implementing various capabilities. Although it is still early, Gray believes that in a couple of years, this will become the standard and will open up new opportunities in both the public carrier and private 5G spaces.

In fact, this trend of debuting tech at major events is not new, but it is indeed becoming more prevalent as the speed and volume of data increase and audiences continue to grow. Network operators are now finding it beneficial to collaborate with event organizers to tap into the large and attentive audiences present at these events.

Research by Ovum for Amdocs has found that over 80% of operators in Asia Pacific are planning to provide 5G services to major live sports and eSports event organizers. These operators see events like the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as an opportunity to offer new enterprise services based on 5G communications.

Additionally, 81% of APAC operators plan to offer IoT-related technology and services to stadium owners and tournament organizers, with the aim of streamlining stadium management. Moreover, 56% intend to introduce services that enhance fan experiences, such as mobile ordering of food and drinks.

Operators fully expect 5G to bring new commercial opportunities, with 44% believing it will increase average revenue per user (ARPU) and 32% anticipating a boost to their enterprise business. Furthermore, 50% of operators believe 5G will drive growth in sports TV subscribers, while 43% see it increasing the adoption of virtual reality services.

To take advantage of these opportunities, 81% of operators are planning to form new partnerships with broadcasters and OTT service providers. The same percentage of operators are also looking to create partnerships with device manufacturers themselves. Additionally, 64% of operators are seeking direct partnerships with sports venues, while 56% are interested in partnering with social media and video game companies.

However, operators are aware of the challenges that may arise with the introduction of new 5G services for sports and esports. When asked about such challenges, 69% of operators mentioned issues with delivering the necessary levels of capacity and connectivity to support live HD video. Further still, 56% of operators expressed concerns about indoor coverage in stadiums.

Amdocs CMO Gary Miles stated that operators see both short-term and long-term benefits in supporting sports with 5G. In the short term, operators expect growth in average revenue per user (ARPU) and their media business line. In the long term, they anticipate enhanced brand appeal among younger demographics.

Additionally, working with new partners in the 5G and sports industries will give operators a crucial role in a new digital business ecosystem. Among the various potential use cases for 5G, research shows that sports and eSports are particularly compelling.

With the continuous advancement of technology, we can anticipate even more remarkable innovations from the telecommunications industry. This creativity and vision will surely make future sporting events in the Asia-Pacific region more riveting and unforgettable for fans worldwide.

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