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Networking tech firms scrum down for Rugby World Cup

Leading communications providers look to form off-pitch connectivity spine of team with infrastructures using advanced networking and mixed reality technologies at pinnacle of world rugby

Drama has flourished on the opening weekend of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and making sure the big hits remain on the pitch and not its domain, leading telecoms and networking firms have revealed their input in making sure the event runs smoothly behind the scenes.

After its 8 October kick-off in Paris, the competition is being hosted across nine cities across France, finishing on 28 October. At each stadium will be a rugby village for fans to gain deeper engagement with the event.

Designated as an official sponsor and telecom operator of the Rugby World Cup, Orange said it has been working for more than two and a half years to connect the tournament. To ensure as many fans as possible can experience the excitement of rugby around the world, Orange is connecting television broadcasters to 850 million viewers via what it calls a secure, ultra-high-speed broadcast contribution network, as well as providing all the connectivity required for the tournament.

“Orange is proud to be a partner of this major event, which will involve 700 of our employees,” said Caroline Guillaumin, executive director of group communications at Orange. “For us, this is both a technical and an environmental challenge. This Rugby World Cup 2023 is an opportunity to innovate, test and reinvent ourselves. We’re also working with a number of startups to provide an enhanced digital sports experience for all audiences – athletes, partners and, most importantly, fans.”

The company said it has faced unprecedented technological challenges to make the World Cup a global success, both inside and outside the stadiums. From the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) to the France 2023 Organising Committee headquarters, including all remote sites, Orange has deployed what it calls a unified and simplified native IP architecture for the organisers and all partners. This service is designed to improve the performance and efficiency of the telecommunications offerings, with fixed telephony also based on fully IP services.

Getting further up the innovation pitch, Orange has used virtual reality for the French national team with the Touche Augmentée (Augmented Lineouts) system. This was specifically designed to help players improve their lineout technique. Touche Augmentée will be available to try out at the Rugby Villages based at the stadiums in Lyons, Nantes, Paris and Toulouse. Orange’s networks in the stadiums and rugby villages will also allow fans to enjoy two augmented reality experiences, thanks to realistic 3D modelling for images that are said to look just like the real thing.

Making sure safety is ensured around the Toulouse area during the tournament, NTT subsidiary Transatel has won the tender organised by Toulouse Métropole to secure the continuity of cellular connectivity services. With Transatel’s multi-operator SIM cards, law enforcement and emergency services will be able to carry out their critical missions in the field while remaining securely connected, within the perimeter and beyond the Toulouse Metropole’s sovereign 5G mobile private network.

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Transatel said the proliferation of private 4G/5G connectivity infrastructures in factories, hospitals, stadiums, universities, ports and airports is making interoperability of private and public cellular networks essential, especially for emergency services. It added that law enforcement officers, ambulance drivers and firefighters are constantly on the move, and need to be able to stay connected and make calls without interruption as they pass through areas respectively covered by public and/or private cellular networks. Transatel stressed that this will be the case in Toulouse, which will host the largest fan zone in France.

As a winner of the Connecting Europe Facility call for projects, Toulouse Métropole invested in its own shared, multiservice 5G and IP/MPLS infrastructure, to offer very high-speed mobile access services to innovation zones and improve municipal services. However, the Toulouse metropolis needed to find a partner capable of ensuring the interoperability of its infrastructure with mobile operators’ networks, to guarantee the continuity of service required by its users securely and at a reasonable cost.

Co-funded by the European Union, the implementation of Toulouse Métropole’s sovereign 5G HI5 (high connectivity via 5G) mobile private network will have the following main use cases: group communication during public events such as the Rugby World Cup 2023; training students in 5G applications; high-speed connectivity for rural areas with poor fibre-optic coverage; real-time analysis of video streams to improve security; and fast video loading on the move in the Toulouse metro.

“Right from the start of the HI5 experiment, we wanted to improve our network connectivity and sovereignty by relying on mobile carriers’ 5G networks, which is why we chose Transatel for the operability of its solution and their ability to adapt quickly to our specific needs and requirements,” said Joe di Marco, in charge of the digital infrastructure organising authority at Toulouse Métropole. “Initial continuity tests have been conclusive, and we look forward to future phases of experimentation.”

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