Standing Out From the Crowd.
Telcos are feeling the pinch as the National Broadband Network forces them to diversify. While Telstra have concentrated on tech, Optus are strengthening their holdings in media, and both are attempting to be the first to offer 5G. Optus have openly challenged Telstra in the race to offer 5G, and they have announced their intent to tighten their hold on soccer broadcasting rights in an attempt to build respect as a broadcaster.
In 2016, Optus were the shock winners of the bidding race to secure rights to broadcast the English Premier League in Australia, costing them $63 million a year. The EPL has a relatively small but dedicated pool of fans who had previously had access to the games as part of a Foxtel subscription that included a sports package. As many fans followed more than one sport and could access the Foxtel entertainment channels, the combined package was seen by fans as vastly superior to what Optus planned to offer.
While many telcos offer broadcasting rights on a subscription basis (usually offering incentives for customers) Optus chose only to offer EPL to Optus customers who must have a post-paid contract, have Fetch TV and then pay extra for an EPL package in order to view the matches. While unpopular with fans, Optus has seen its customer base increase as a result and the success has made them turn their eyes on other media opportunities.
Fighting for Media
Rights for the EPL will come up at the end of the next season, so Optus are already planning to fight for them. In the meantime, they’ve invested millions in order to update their ability to provide live streamed games. The coverage of the FIFA World Cup is the next big test, where Optus will be the only outlet to show every game (although SBS will show a few), and will include two 24 hour dedicated channels that are delivered by more than 80 fulltime staff. Optus are also looking to gain rights to the Euro 2020 international tournament and the UEFA Champions League.
It might be ambitious, but Optus are hoping that their superior broadcasting will gain them extra credit in the media content stage – although that may have mixed results in attracting new customers as only Optus customers will have access to the broadcasts.
The race to 5G
Along with their media goals is the race to be first to offer commercial 5G. 5G has a long way to go before the rollout is complete, and even longer before 5G compatible devices are standard. As Telstra demonstrated in the early days of 4G, getting in early is the key to greater commercial success and Optus are doing everything they can to be the first ones to get 5G into the market.
Optus believe they are the only telco to currently have access to the 5G spectrum and expect to have fixed wireless internet available in January next year, with 5G compatible devices expected to become commercially available soon after. They also plan 5G demonstrations at the Commonwealth Games with robotics, soccer and cycling to show the speeds and low latency that are such highly anticipated features of 5G technology.
Did Telstra get there first?
However, Optus might already have fallen behind, after Telstra recently turned on some 5G enabled Wi-Fi hotspots around the Southport area in Queensland’s Gold Coast. The region is gearing up to host the Commonwealth games, and as Telstra is claiming to be among the first in the world to offer 5G to the public, the opportunity for Commonwealth Games visitors to trial 5G speeds should gain them international attention.
There are no 5G compatible devices currently available on the market, so the rollout is just a taste of the possibilities that 5G will offer. The speeds and low latency that are the main drawcards for 5G will not be running at full capacity due to the unsupported devices.
It’s hard to say who will make a bigger impression with 5G demonstrations – Optus showing 5G with 5G compatible devices, or Telstra allowing customers to experience 5G for themselves, albeit at lower speeds. There are still plenty of future developments to look out for, and customers should benefit from the increasingly creative offers due to heavy competition.