5G will transform the sports experience for fans in stadiums and at home, according to research conducted by Ovum for Amdocs, a leading provider of software and services to communications and media companies.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the world’s largest network operators plan to use augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) or a hybrid of these technologies, supported by 5G, to offer richer viewing experiences to fans, both at sports stadiums and watching at home. Promising speeds up to tens of times faster and lower latency than 4G, 5G opens up the possibilities for new types of entertainment and in-stadium experiences. Audiences could, for example, watch instant replays and 360-degree streams or look up player stats via AR and VR technology, bringing them much closer to the action.
5G will also transform the at-home viewing experience of sports events, with 81% of operators planning to offer new multi-screen Pay-TV and subscription internet video streaming services. 5G will improve mobile TV and video quality and increase the range of mobile content available to audiences, across a range of consumer devices and services.
The research surveyed C-level executives from the world’s 100 largest operators. A third (37%) of these, the research revealed, also intend to own a sports team in the 5G era as they look to expand their involvement in the sports ecosystem. This is likely to result in growing investments in 5G connectivity and services at stadiums and large venues.
5G and the 2020 summer of sports
Audiences may not have to wait very long to enjoy enhanced sports fan experiences. More than two-thirds (70%) of operators claim that upcoming major sports events, such as the 2020 Olympics and European Championship, are influencing their 5G roll-out timelines. The research also reveals:
— More than a third (37%) of operators plan commercial 5G launches in conjunction with top sports events
More than a quarter (26%) of operators intend to introduce 5G services during next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo (July 24 – August 9)
— 28% of operators are targeting the Euro 2020 soccer tournament (June – July 2020) to kickoff 5G experiences to the consumer market.
— 91% of operators plan to trial 5G within sports and esports venues by the end of 2020.
5G will give esports a digital upgrade
Fans of esports – professional multiplayer video game competitions – will also experience 5G-supported experiences in the near-future. Nearly all (97%) operators plan to support esports in the 5G era, either as technology partners to esports event organizers (73%), broadcasters of the action (55%), or with far bolder plans, including esports team ownership (18%).
The esports event most popular in operators’ 5G plans, only outranked by the Olympics and top soccer tournaments, is ELEAGUE – the professional Counter-Strike league and championship. Esports is growing rapidly in popularity with viewing metrics, prize money and sponsorship all increasing substantially year-on-year and is being considered for entry into the Olympics as a new discipline for Paris 2024.
Encouraging 5G adoption
Consumers wanting to take advantage of 5G will need devices that support 5G. To ensure widespread adoption of this new network technology, 43% of operators said they were prepared to subsidize 5G-enabled smartphones, a third said they would subsidize 5G-enabled tablets, and a quarter will subsidize 5G-enabled augmented and mixed-reality headsets.