Why Diverse Connectivity Routes Are a Necessity for the Tournament at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

As published in the September Issue of SubTel Forum Magazine 

By Brendan Press
September 21, 2022

To many, the FIFA World Cup is the pinnacle of sport. Passion, happiness and, even, despair, combine to produce a concentrated festival of football that draws in billions of viewers from across the globe. More than half the world’s population tuned into the last World Cup in 2018, and FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, predicts that the number of viewers for this coming World Cup will reach 5 billion.

On top of that, how we consume football has evolved far beyond simply watching the games. We now have increased access to teams and players. Whether through social media, analysis breakdown from pundits, or fantasy and prediction leagues, the opportunity to engage and get closer to the action has never been greater.

Therefore, as we look ahead to this year’s edition in Qatar – which will mark the first time the tournament has been hosted in the Middle East, as well as outside of its traditional summer slot – an important consideration is how the event will be accessible to all. As such, while Ronaldo, Messi and Mbappé may make the headlines, no player will be as integral to the tournament as connectivity.


The World Cup is an engine for development

When the World Cup comes to town, so does an economy boost. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (the organisation responsible for the planning and delivery of the World Cup) predicts that “the contribution to the economy essentially would be around $20 billion”, – approximately 11% of Qatar’s GDP in 2019, prior to the onset of the pandemic.

However, achieving that boost requires investment as there’s a need to enhance infrastructure and stadium capabilities. As the in-stadium fan experience continues to evolve, it’s forecasted that there will be a 67% increase year-on-year in sports venue data usage meaning stadiums must be equipped with the best mobile and IP-based networks to cater for this huge growth. Indeed, fan experience is such a key aspect of the event, that countries invest a lot of money into ensuring that it can put on the greatest show. However, planning goes beyond the World Cup, with it often used as a catalyst to drive development within the host nation long after the closing ceremony.

In Qatar’s case, it is investing more than $300 billion into the 2022 event. Not only is it building the stadiums, but it’s modernising its national infrastructure too. Al Thawadi also said, “The World Cup is meant to serve as an engine to push forward and accelerate a lot of the initiatives that the government has already committed to, already had planned, whether that’s in terms of urban development or economic diversification.”

The country laid out its National Vision for the future, with it aiming that by 2030 ‘it would be an advanced society capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for its people’. The event is therefore a key driver in the Middle East’s digital transformation journey and is instrumental in transforming Qatar into attractive commercial destination.


Connectivity providers are a driving force

The country’s placement in the Gulf also makes it a viable place to become a central hub of the world for business, travel, and connectivity. In geographical terms, the Middle East is perfectly situated to serve as a bridge between the Eastern and Western worlds, and for connectivity this means low latency, high-capacity cable routes that can help to drive global transformations and economies.

Its understanding of the surrounding countries’ geopolitical and regulatory landscapes also means organisations based there are valued partners that can provide seamless access to the new areas of the world that would otherwise be difficult to navigate.

However, for Qatar to achieve its goals, the importance of investment in connectivity capabilities cannot be understated. The transfer of data is the life blood of so many aspects of our lives and delivering an unforgettable World Cup to everyone on the planet is an audition on the world stage.

Fans everywhere want to seamlessly watch matches and highlights or see what their favourite players are up to in between games, and low latency, high-capacity cable networks that can handle the spikes in traffic are critical to that. As such, connectivity companies in the region are increasing capacity, availability and increasing capabilities to provide an enhanced service.

These upgrades mean we’re already seeing big technology players entering the Middle East, with brands such as Meta, Google, AWS and Microsoft investing. Local customers expect to be able to access services quickly and seamlessly, so these firms are elevating diversified routes and locally hosted data centres to the top of their agendas.

In addition to these examples, a successful World Cup will be further proof that the region houses the ideal connectivity partners for global organisations looking to enhance their capabilities at scale, and they are working closely with the Supreme Committee to make sure that happens.


Why diversification is key on and off the pitch

Diversification of cable networks will have a huge role to play in ensuring World Cup content is seamlessly accessible by everyone across the world for the entirety of the tournament, and for Asia to Europe data flow beyond that.

A large majority of cables and traffic between West Asia, South Asia, and East Asia pass through Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. This means one route is responsible for carrying almost all the data between the regions to provide Asia-Europe connectivity. The challenge here is that that level of traffic creates bottlenecks, and bottlenecks mean outages and high latency – effects that can have impacts to businesses and nations.

To mitigate these costly implications there needs to be diversification of Asia to Europe cable routes. Instead of almost all traffic passing through Egypt and the Suez Canal, it can instead go north through diverse terrestrial cable routes that pass via the Gulf, Iran, Iraq and Turkey.

This means that should one of the routes fail due to capacity constraints or other reasons, there is an immediate substitute that keeps users connected. This redundancy means a continuous flow of data between Asia, the Gulf and Europe, which will keep the football on our screens during the World Cup and – vitally – that organisations and countries stay connected.

The importance of a diversified cable network can be likened to the need for diverse tactics on the pitch. For example, if a team only attacks down the left, quite quickly the opposition team will work that out and place more players on that side to restrict movement. Similarly, if they rely too heavily on one player, should they get injured, it’s very difficult to restructure the team in real-time overall strategy can be lost.

As such, teams diversify their tactics. Transitioning from left, right to the up the middle in order to keep the opposition on their toes and score when they’re out of position. While they also practice to ensure workloads can be split among players, meaning the strategy remains even if one player has to be substituted for another.

In other words, ongoing investment and diversification into robust cable networks will be a key factor to user experience across the world, during the World Cup and beyond as the globe continues to digital transform.


Qatar’s time to shine

Come 20th November 2022, all eyes will be on Qatar. The opening ceremony will be immediately followed by the tournament’s opening game – Qatar versus Ecuador – and will mark the beginning of a festival of football that will last just under a month. One of the most watched sporting events in the world, it will be Qatar’s opportunity to show itself to the planet and demonstrate why it’s best placed to connect the world.

Yet, the World Cup is so much more than a football tournament. It’s the driver of investment, long term strategy, development and a strong economy. The Supreme Committee is committed to delivering an event that will also ensure a legacy and its connectivity partners are working towards that goal. It’s clear that partners are dedicated to ensuring that football fans around the world don’t miss a goal and preparations have been underway for years. They have an unwavering commitment to service continuity which will provide the consistency of services that end-users and global football fans across the world deserve.

With ongoing investment into diversified robust cable routes and their protection, users of such networks are empowered. They have low latency, high-capacity connectivity that connects operations in Asia to Europe through diversified routes via Iran, Iraq and Turkey, as well as the more commonly used route via the Suez Canal.

As the world continues to develop, these diversified connectivity routes will keep organisations and nations connected and encourage the development of innovative technologies and boost economies. But, in the short term, it means the delivery of another unforgettable World Cup.


About the Author

Brendan Press is Chief Commercial Officer at Gulf Bridge International with over 20 years leading commercial teams to deliver exceptional results across a broad range of disciplines.


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