On May 6 and 7, 2023, the second Thonon Gaming Fest (TGF) attracted no fewer than 6000 esports, video game, Web3 and geek culture enthusiasts. Some 2150 professional and amateur gamers competed in 11 competitions across 7 games: Rocket League, League of Legends, FIFA 23, Cross The Ages, and more. With demos, conferences and live streaming over Twitch also on the agenda, it was a stern and intense test of the connectivity on offer at the venue, the Maison des Sports complex in Thonon-les-Bains, France. Without a sufficiently strong telecoms infrastructure of its own, the TGF venue was able to rely on Orange’s technical expertise to set up a temporary but complete integration network, thereby ensuring the event could take place without a hitch. “On top of the initial technical challenge related to bandwidth, we should keep in mind that esports are particularly demanding in terms of latency, but also security: Players must be protected at all times,” explains Denis Nhean, Project Manager at Orange. Indeed, behind its fun and competitive appearance, esports requires a strong technological foundation. Expertise must be drawn from many different areas to meet gamers’ performance needs. Esports also presents a challenge for local authorities in terms of how it is integrated into policies.
Esports is shaping up to be a magnificent playground for developing innovation that will help to transform networks and territories.
A Temporary but Instructive Infrastructure
One of the main challenges was to set up a secure local area network with ultra-low latency and high bandwidth to ensure a smooth experience. Orange began by analyzing the games chosen for the competition in order to understand their requirements and propose a suitable architecture. This resulted in 17 access points, 18 switches and 48 Cisco ports being installed. The venue was also equipped with 350 connected gaming stations, with more than 2500 meters of Ethernet cable and 1000 meters of optical fiber to power the various active components. A Wi-Fi network was created to enable mobile and display usage.
The massive and “extreme” usage of this esports event enabled Orange to measure and stress-test current networks and use the resulting data to simulate future networks and usage. After work on optimizing the local infrastructure in 2022 (ultra-low latency, monitoring tools to prevent cheating and manage bandwidth), the project team calculated the throughput and latency between Paris and Thonon and identified the routes and congestion points. This data can also be used in research.
The challenge is for the carrier to get a better understanding of how its networks perform in a competitive gaming environment, including in Africa: how should throughput and latency be managed to enable remote competitive gaming, and what infrastructures and services should be developed for gamers at home as well as in future stadiums?
It is also a question of identifying solutions to create a market for low and managed-latency, remote usage in sectors such as medicine or industry.
Guarding against Cheats…and Bad Players!
As technical service provider to TGF, Orange was also responsible for security. When between 5000 and 7000 gamers, the exhibitors and the general public all connect to the same infrastructure at once, there is an exponential increase in risk. With gaming accounting for around 30% of cyberattacks worldwide, a dedicated cybersecurity infrastructure was needed to prevent brute-force or attacks. Different solutions for monitoring all usage and detecting fraud, piracy and digital cheating were created and installed on the local area network.
This is a project tackling broader issues that reach beyond the event in Thonon. According to Eric Farro, Digital Evangelist at Orange, “This esports gathering is fertile ground for experiments on throughput, latency and security, helping us to prepare for the usage of tomorrow and future requirements across the land.”