Connecting big sporting events

On 01-04-2022
Reading time : 7 minutes

Connecting big sporting events: how to deliver what everyone wants

Connecting big sporting events is a significant challenge. The Olympic Games, the World Cup, the European Championship, the Tour de France – all of them need to connect tens of thousands of in-person spectators, ensure Quality of Service (QoS), and do it securely. What should you do to prepare for hosting a major connected sporting event?

Major sporting events are big deals and even bigger logistics operations. With 15 million tickets already sold for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the network will need to support huge numbers of roaming foreign visitors, including the public, journalists, partners, and athletes, as well as traffic from domestic attendees.

Events like the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia needed to provide Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity to support Moscow’s IT infrastructure, and provide sufficient capacity and coverage at stadiums, training bases, transport hubs, media centres and operational offices. The World Cup was a showcase for emerging technologies like Video Assistant Referee (VAR), Electronic Performance and Tracking Systems (EPTS), Ultra High-Definition video (UHD) and virtual reality (VR), and 5G. Fans generated 144 petabytes (PB) of data at FIFA venues in and around the Russian capital in 2018.

The Tour de France cycling competition is another example of a large-scale sporting event that needs to keep participants, teams, spectators and numerous other stakeholders connected at all times. For competitors, connectivity ensures teams can monitor performance using real-time analytics of key assets at all locations, tracking race data and monitoring crowds for safety and security. Security and even weather must be monitored and reported. Not to mention the Tour de France wants to ensure fans of the races have a data-driven experience that they can share in real-time on social media.

Something all major sporting events have in common today is a need for fast, reliable, ubiquitous connectivity. And in providing that, all operators, but particularly mobile operators, must secure and prioritize their networks both for the types of usage related to any event and also for new use cases. This means providing the increased bandwidth required to send and connect spectators to an event site, while also delivering reliable telecom solutions that enable things that make major events a success. That includes efficient, reliable video broadcast, the ability to time athletes accurately, or empowering spectators to share experiences on social media in real time. Connectivity enables both very visible services at major events and also those operational aspects that aren’t always so clearly visible.

Different events, different venues, different requirements

Sporting events vary greatly in their connectivity requirements depending on where they are, what kind of arena they take place in, and what supporters and fans expect from it. For example, spectators inside stadiums for sporting events like football or rugby matches need Wi-Fi and mobile coverage so that they can share their experiences live on social networks without network saturation constraints. The venue needs a robust, reliable connectivity so that it can live stream the event from the stadium.

In the same way, the network is essential for transmitting event images and video feed to broadcast centers. This makes capacity and redundancy of networks very important, in order to minimize or preferably eliminate the risk of a blackout of a live broadcast event. There is pressure on the telecoms operator to deliver here: Orange works with France’s Ligue Un to transmit images from the stadiums to media centers which provides VAR and live broadcasts of matches.

In recent years, the events sector has developed both in terms of the experience offered to spectators and the operations side too. For spectators, the industry now offers things like multiview delivered via all types of media, including linear or OTT. Spectators want to be able to see statistics overlaid on their video feeds, and choose the camera angle they see, all of which requires more data.

On the production side, broadcasters are trying to do more remote production which would allow them to pool productions on multiple simultaneous events. This would, among other benefits, help them reduce their carbon footprint thanks to reduced travel by staff and no need for outside broadcast vans at event sites. These use cases highlight the importance of the network in bringing video flows back to control centers.

Esports on the rise

Esports – organized video gaming events or tournaments – is a rapidly growing phenomenon. There are forecast to be around 285 million regular viewers of eSports worldwide by 2024, plus a further 290 million occasional viewers. The events themselves typically host hundreds of players in one arena, meaning the site’s connectivity must be powerful and fast enough to handle all the digital action. At the same time, cybersecurity remains important: as much as 80% of direct denial of service (DDoS) attacks per year are targeted at the online gaming industry.

So, reliable and ultra-fast connections are a must-have for players. Slow connections are of no use at all, and the impact of poor network performance on an event’s reputation cannot be underestimated. Esport event viewers may be a little more understanding and accept slightly lower quality connectivity, but only to a degree.

How do you ensure a great connectivity at major events?

There are steps you can take to make sure major events have the connectivity they need to deliver a great experience to all participants, spectators and viewers. With major sporting events on the way like the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, organizers and venues need to do everything they can to prepare. Below we suggest some actions you can take and questions you can ask to make sure you are ready.

  • Anticipate and list connectivity requirements

    Every event and its connectivity requirements are different. Even different rooms within the same event venue may have different requirements. Who are the event attendees? Is it a professional event or are you catering to the general public? Will users need to pay? How will you broadcast the event? Will this connectivity be used by esport players or just for viewers? This dictates the type of traffic your network will likely have to carry and will influence the solutions you need to put in place.

  • Ensure cybersecurity of the end-users on your network

    How good is the cybersecurity around your event? With so many users on your network, you need to ensure they are protected. For example, the Tokyo Olympic Games which took place in 2021 was the victim of a massive 450 million attempted cyberattacks, more than 2.5 the number of attacks launched at the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games. Your event may have VIP guests in attendance, who have very stringent communication security requirements. It means that if you are planning to stage a major event, it’s advisable to have secured ultra-low LAN-WAN connectivity in place.

  • Make sure you have enough bandwidth to offer the end-users

    Does the event need to support lots of mobile video? Sporting events for example often see spectators recording and uploading video footage of themselves and the action, so your network will need to offer plenty of bandwidth to users.

  • Guarantee reliable connection in dense areas

    What is the density of attendees at your event? The industry rule of thumb is that around one-third of attendees at a large event communicate simultaneously, so you will need to ensure there is sufficient bandwidth and a reliable connection for them all.

  • Prepare your international connectivity as carefully as the domestic one

    The international factor: for major international events, there is often a need to coordinate and supervise from the domestic local loop in the country where the event is being held, through the international network and to the final transmission destination. Therefore, the international network must be able to support both quantity of traffic and quality of service (QoS) required by the various types of traffic traveling over it. The international network must support voice, data and internet content needs, as well as the broadcasting of live TV images, including 4K live TV images. To achieve this, both national and international networks need to be redundant and secured, with no single point of failure (SPOF), for guaranteed throughput.

Orange expertise in events

Orange Events specializes in specifying, implementing and supporting the networks required for major events, and understands how to find the perfect balance between speed, performance, security and cost.

For more than 20 years, Orange Events has worked on all kinds of events, from sports competitions like the world-famous Tour de France, which requires connectivity everywhere, to institutional events like G7 meetings, which present challenges in terms of security, to cultural events like the Festival de Cannes, which requires bringing digital to the heart of broadcast communications.

Orange is proud to be a partner of the Paris 2024 Olympic games and also the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and Orange Events is the technical arm that will deliver world class connectivity and services for these major events.  



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