Nokia sponsors Apex Legends esports event over Wi-Fi

Nokia today announced it is working with SCUF and Oversight Esports, to host the Nokia Apex Legends Invitation Tournament.

The telecom company said this is the first-ever esports event to use Wi-Fi instead of ethernet-based
connectivity. The charity event will feature 20 teams of professional and amateur players worldwide competing over Wi-Fi.

Nokia’s Wi-Fi Beacon 10, built on the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms, embeds unique latency and queuing technology to give service providers a powerful Wi-Fi gateway solution that can rival any commercial and retail device on the market, said Gino Dion, Nokia’s head of innovation solutions, in an interview with GamesBeat.

The point is not to show Wi-Fi can beat wired connections. Wi-Fi is not going to replace the wired internet in terms of the ultimate performance, he said.

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“But for the majority of the consumers out there, Wi-Fi can provide a very high-quality, reliable gaming experience. So we put together this this event with some of the top players and and content creators out there in a fun way,” he said. “We brought a lot of partners like Qualcomm and SCUF to make something fun. We’re excited to showcase that Wi-Fi can do the job.”

For customers, the Beacon provides gaming-level latency that optimizes performance. For NoaNet (Northwest Open Access Network), Washington State’s premier public-owned fiber optic broadband network, a premium Wi-Fi experiences delivered by products like the Nokia Beacon are essential to enable additional revenue-generating services.

Dion said, “Running an Esports event like this targeting specifically pro-players playing over Wi-Fi was long thought to be impossible. Today, we’re showing it can be done. Our Beacon 10 device is a game changer, giving service providers the ability to offer advanced Wi-Fi gaming, latency, and performance management features that rival other devices on the market. We’re excited to work alongside EA Sports and other gaming industry leaders such as Oversight Esports and SCUF, to deliver this industry-first tournament-style event run over Wi-Fi.”

“Getting high-capacity fiber access to the homes and businesses of our customers across the Pacific Northwest is only half the battle,” said John Smith, CTO at NoaNet, in a statement. “We must also ensure they have reliable, high-performing whole-home Wi-Fi coverage. Nokia’s world-class Beacon technology is an excellent example that does this, and for some, it’s literally changing the game, allowing those that live in rural areas to effectively compete with professional gamers from around the world in competitive esports like Apex Legends.”

Nokia wants to showcase its Wi-Fi tech and improve its market visibility by impressing fans with the Wi-Fi tournament, which is something I admit never thought was possible. It’s got a relatively small prize pool that will be donated to charity, but it has just enough esports celebrities to make it interesting.

Edwin Jung, CEO of Oversight Esports, said in a statement, “I never thought something like this would be possible. If you’re a gamer, every millisecond counts and lag spikes can often be the difference between a win or a loss. That’s primarily why most gamers opt for a hard-wired connection when playing or competing. Nokia is literally changing the game, with Wi-Fi technology that can meet the bandwidth and consistent latency requirements we need to be competitive.”

All participants in the Apex Challenge tournament will receive Nokia’s Beacon Wi-Fi gateway, custom SCUF controllers, and a cloud gaming subscription. Players will self-install the gateway in their homes to establish the Wi-Fi connection needed to access the game. Once online, gamers play in a “hide-and-seek” style event.

Nokia’s Nokia’s Wi-Fi Beacon 10.

Ganesh Swaminathan, VP of wireless infrastructure and networking at Qualcomm, said in a statement, “We are thrilled to collaborate with Nokia and other industry leaders to bring the first-ever Esports event over Wi-Fi technology with the Nokia Apex Legends Invitational Tournament. Powering Nokia’s Beacon portfolio of Wi-Fi 6, 6E, and 7 devices, Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms, with its service-defined architecture, deliver deterministic Wi-Fi latency and the superior stability essential for gaming enthusiasts. This event showcases the power of Wi-Fi in providing a seamless and high-performing gaming experience and highlights the transformative potential of Nokia’s Beacon technology.”

The event will be streamed live by the participants on multiple platforms such as Twitch, Kick, X, and YouTube, and will feature live narration by the talented DisguisedToast and NiceWigg, two popular Apex Legends content creators and commentators. It will also include a freestyle rap performance by Harry Mack, a world-renowned rapper who will create an original track on the fly during the event. Winners of the tournament will receive $25,000 as a total award to be distributed to a charity of their choice.

The Apex Legends tournament will take place on May 31 at 10am PST and be streamed live on Twitch, Kick, X and YouTube channels. The Apex Legends Invitational Tournament will consist of 20 teams with three players per team. The roster will include 10 professional and 10 amateur teams from around the world including teams representing the North American aboriginal and the LGBQT+ communities. After four games are played on various maps, one “hiding” team will be crowned the winner based on total points they’ve accumulated, as well as one “Predator” from the SCUF predator team based on the total number of accumulated eliminations.

What’s the point?

Dion said the aim is to keep the tournament fair and light. There isn’t a lot of money at stake in the charity event, and the players will play from their homes. There will be no live broadcasting, except from a Nokia office in Sunnyvale, California, where a couple of the players will gather. Nokia provided everyone with a residential gateway to handle the home Wi-Fi as well as a pro controller from SCUF Corsair.

“We’re not a consumer facing brand anymore,” said Dion. “But the reality is that we still ship tens of millions of gateway and Wi Fi devices a year, behind the scenes at the service providers,” he said. “We were one of the founding members of the Wi-Fi Alliance. We have hundreds of engineers that focus on Wi-Fi, including our Bell Labs outfit.”

Nokia isn’t actually using the most advanced Wi-Fi equipment, dubbed Wi-Fi 7, which has been out since January. Dion noted supplies of the adapters are still pretty scarce, so the tournament will use Wi-Fi 6E equipment.

“We wanted to make this as inclusive as possible because we didn’t want to limit no players from around the world,” he said. “We wanted this to showcase that it doesn’t matter if you have one gig, 100 megabits, or 50 megabits when it comes to first person shooter games like Apex Legends or Fortnite.”

Um. OK. I’m not sure I believe that. But Nokia has gone to a lot of trouble to prove that point.

“The key isn’t even having ultra-low latency with no low latency. It helps having consistent latency. That is the most critical item for a good gaming experience. So our Nokia Beacon 10s are running custom software that we wrote specifically for the event that can identify Apex Legends traffic and treat it to provide the most consistent latency experience possible,” he said.

Dion is well aware that esports players just don’t use Wi-Fi. They use wired connections because they believe it gets them the fastest connectivity and lowest latency.

“If your livelihood depends on the competitiveness and the performance of your home network, then it dawned on me that this tournament would be a great way to showcase Nokia’s unique technology in a very dramatic way.”

About 70% of participants don’t use Wi Fi, so Nokia worked with each individually to commission Nokia Beacons based on their provider and hardware. The important connection speed to deliver is not necessarily ultra-low latency — or interaction on the network — but consistent latency, Dion said. Roughly 70% of users connect via Wi-Fi, according to Nokia.

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