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Nokia just hosted the first Apex Legends event held completely over Wi-Fi

Two characters face off at close range in Apex Legends.
Respawn

Nokia hosted a charity Apex Legends event last weekend that looked standard enough on the surface, but could be the first step in changing the internet provider landscape for gamers.

The hide-and-seek tournament tasked teams of streamers and content creators with hiding from a professional team of seekers set on destroying them. If that weren’t enough of a deviation from the standard Apex Legends tournament, the organizers had one more big twist for participants: Everyone had to play over Wi-Fi instead of an Ethernet-based connection.

Cue the cries of outrage from every single streamer in the chat.

The first-of-its-kind event centered around a new piece of tech from Nokia: the Wi-Fi Beacon 10. While not commercially available (and it won’t be anytime soon), this new internet gateway is Nokia’s attempt to push the limits of Wi-Fi connectivity quality and provide advanced latency management. The company also wants internet service providers to focus on innovating for the gaming community.

What exactly is the Wi-Fi Beacon 10?

Built on the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms, the Wi-Fi Beacon 10 is designed to embed unique latency and queuing technology to give service providers a powerful Wi-Fi gateway solution. The goal isn’t necessarily to compete with a wired internet connection — it’s to reduce latency to manageable levels, no matter the quality of your connection.

“While we are not a consumer-facing brand, we do ship tens of millions of Wi-Fi enabled home routers every year, to service providers all around the world,” Gino Dion, Nokia’s head of innovation solutions, tells Digital Trends. “This event allows us to showcase that if residential broadband consumers want a top gaming experience, they don’t have to spend over $1,000 for a ‘gaming router.’ The ISP-provided router (also being from Nokia), can deliver and even outperform the best options available today in retail [with the Wi-Fi Beacon 10].”

Nokia's Wi-Fi Beacon 10 internet gateway.
Nokia

While competitive gamers and full-time streamers might need the perfect connection to game daily, the average gamer has more options and sometimes is just looking for consistency.

“Wi-Fi has been around for 25 years now, but in the last five to six years it went through a dramatic transformation from Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, and now Wi-Fi 7. Pro gamers and top content creators have historically always been on Ethernet, which is perfectly understandable, but what we wanted to do with this event is break that mental barrier and showcase how much Wi-Fi has improved,” Dino says.

Dino also says that the gaming community is still a largely untapped one when it comes to clients ISPs should be paying attention to.

“Gaming performance is definitely a top decision criteria when it comes to the selection of a broadband provider for residential access. I know countless pros who have moved halfway across the country just to get an edge with a better provider,” Dino says. “It’s a largely untapped market segment. Sure, ISPs like to brag about being good at gaming, but what technology are they actually deploying to improve that quality of service?”

How is gaming with the Wi-Fi Beacon 10 really?

When I was invited to test out Nokia’s Wi-Fi Beacon 10 in the tournament, I was skeptical to say the least. Why would anyone intentionally play over Wi-Fi if they had a hardwired option? The Discord channel for the event was full of similar takes. Everyone was excited to hang out and play in a charity event but was hesitant about the tech. These were all streamers after all, so a dropped connection or getting killed in-game due to lag is a nightmare situation.

Once we hopped into the game, though, no one seemed to be talking about the connection quality anymore. While it wasn’t perfect (there were a few noticeable disconnects that delayed new rounds from starting), everyone was in the chat yapping about the best hiding spots on the map and that one round where all the seekers accidentally eliminated themselves, not that gaming over Wi-Fi was awful. I had one teammate who was having a bit of a rough go, but he chalked it up to the poor internet quality he was working with while traveling.

Welcome to the Nokia Apex Invitational! #apexoverwifi #apexlegends #nokia

My own experience was a bit of a mixed bag. When I was running around on the edge of the map looking for healing items, farming EVO harvesters, and generally trying to avoid contact with anyone, it was similar to playing over a hardwired connection. Performance was smooth without lag spikes and my frame rates were high and stable.

But the more players I came in contact with as the map, the quality of my connection started to degrade a bit. I was never lagging to the point where I couldn’t play and I never disconnected, but my game did feel choppier. I’m certainly not well-versed enough in internet connectivity specifics to evaluate what was happening exactly, but I knew that more players meant the likelihood of getting headshot before I saw an enemy shoot up.

Overall, this wasn’t too much of a problem for me, but it became an issue whenever I made it to the later stages of a round. A typical Apex Legends match sees a pretty consistent player count drop over the course of the game. But these hide-and-seek matches typically end with way too many players piled up on top of each other in a room at the end of the match. There’s really no way to survive a situation like that — the seekers will find you all and mow you down — but my connection in these instances definitely degraded enough that I wasn’t really in control of avoiding incoming fire. This wasn’t the case for my second teammate when he entered similar end-game situations, so it was likely an internet quality issue rather than a Wi-Fi connectivity issue, but I was never 100% sure.

Apex Legends.
Respawn

Post-event, I continued using the Wi-Fi Beacon 10 and ran into similar mixed results. Apex Legends would run pretty smoothly for a match, then be super rough the next. I got in a pretty serious Rocket League session one day (ranked up multiple times, by the way) but the next day it felt like I was playing in slow-motion and pissing off my teammates. It really seems to be a “good not great” situation that has me thinking back to playing Halo 2 online over my internet connection in rural Maine back in 2009: When it’s good, I’m good, and when it’s bad, it’s “oh my god, this is not fair, I hate this game.”

I’ve never really been one to care too much about the quality of my internet service if it’s getting the job done, but this Nokia event definitely has me thinking about connection quality disparity when it comes to online gaming. If Nokia were telling everyone that this gateway should be replacing a hardwired connection, I wouldn’t believe it, but ultimately the company is just trying to improve its tech and make a solid Wi-Fi signal more accessible. Who doesn’t want that for everyone?

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Sam Hill
Sam Hill is a journalist and the gaming guides editor at Digital Trends. He's also written tech guides for Input and has…
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