The football World Cup kicked off in Qatar at the weekend, triggering the inevitable announcement from a major telco keen to big up its network prowess thanks to pre-tournament upgrades.
This time it was the turn of Qatari incumbent Ooredoo, which wasted no time in declaring this the first 5G-powered World Cup in history.
In practice, that means that the telco has rolled out 5G networks covering all eight stadiums that will be used during the tournament, as part of a broader network modernisation push including 4G too.
“This upgrade ensured proper network capacity and resiliency throughout all network components – RAN, Core and Transport – for both national and international segments, and included full modernisation of its core, with a sophisticated cloud core network in state-of-the-art data centres,” the operator declared. It is promising “a never-before-seen experience to all attending,” be they football fans or working in operations.
For the former, Ooredoo is offering quality voice calls, a good roaming experience, and of course enough bandwidth for the use of popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp and so forth. Because, of course, if you’ve made the effort to travel to Qatar for the beautiful game, you’d hate to miss the opportunity to plaster it all over social media.
On the subject of roaming, that could prove a nice little earner for Ooredoo and its peers over the next few weeks. Indeed, UK consumer group Which? just last week shared some advice for UK football fans making the journey to Qatar on how to save money on roaming. Hint: the headline finding is that the smaller providers are usually the best bet, although Vodafone puts in a decent showing too.
Ultimately though, Which? shares the usual advice about sticking to WiFi where possible, while also acknowledging that this could be tricky in a stadium environment.
WiFi is on the list of technologies covered by the Ooredoo upgrade though.
The telco says it is using 8,466 multi-beam antennas connected to 500 km of RF cables and 202 km of fibre, to provide indoor 4G and 5G coverage to the eight stadiums. The areas surrounding the stadiums are covered with 41 smart pole outdoor DAS solutions and 45-plus outdoor macro sites. And together the eight venues boast more than 5,000 cells, TETRA services and a WiFi backbone to support all mobile generations from 2G to 5G.
While Ooredoo is excited about its 5G World Cup, clearly many travelling fans will not have 5G devices, but will still need coverage. Nonetheless, its the 5G that the telco is keen to talk about. And it also wants us to know that as well as the football stadiums it has rolled out 5G airports, rail networks, fan zones and other FIFA-related facilities.
However, the buses will be 5G-free for now. A month ago Ooredoo announced it will provide mobile connectivity to 350 FIFA transport buses during the tournament to enable players, FIFA officials and media representatives to stay connected while on the move. It will use mobile broadband technology, it said, as well as managed WiFi on some buses. But not 5G. In fact, it plans to start testing 5G-based broadband in moving vehicles after the tournament has finished.
“Right now, the excitement is palpable and we cannot wait for the event to kick off; both so we can showcase our unrivalled network, products and services, and so we can support our country as it takes its rightful place on the global sporting stage,” said Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulla Al Thani, Deputy Group CEO and CEO of Ooredoo Qatar, on Sunday.
Judging by the performance of the national team in the opening match, having 5G coverage at stadiums might be the most Qatar has to celebrate at this tournament.
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