5G, the “elusive fifth generation mobile interconnectivity solution that promises reduced latency, faster device connectivity, and higher data rates,” as we described it in an article last year, has arrived. At this year’s MWC Barcelona 19 conference, the hype around 5G wasn’t related to IoT, though: instead, telecom providers teamed up with gaming companies to showcase cloud gaming capabilities and untethered VR and AR experiences.
The telecom industry has invested nearly $100B in the US alone into developing much-hyped 5G networks. The most commonly cited use cases for 5G tend to be related to autonomous vehicles and other IoT applications. But according to a NewtonX survey with executives at the five largest telecom providers in the US, the application that is expected to promote the highest user adoption is multi-device cloud gaming and untethered VR/AR experiences. In fact, the global cloud gaming market is expected to grow from a mere $765M last year, to over $60billion by 2026.
Why Cloud Gaming and Mobile VR Are Getting Consumers Excited About 5G
At the MWC conference last month Sprint announced a partnership with Hatch Entertainment to offer mobile cloud gaming services on 5G, Nokia showcased Spider-Man: Far From Home as a multiplayer game streamed on its 5G, and Qualcomm’s cloud gaming and VR platform was used to showcase over three different untethered VR and AR experiences. These are just a few of the latest partnerships between Telecom providers and gaming/ VR companies. Even Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have hopped on board by developing soon-to-launch cloud gaming services.
First of all, what is cloud gaming and why are tech and telecom giants suddenly so excited about it?
Cloud gaming is the gaming equivalent of streaming a video on Netflix or a song on Spotify. Rather than the video residing on a hard-drive, CD, or blu-ray disk, it resides on the cloud. In gaming, this would have a similarly huge consumer impact to that of video streaming: it would eliminate the need for expensive hardware, allow for increased device/platform agnosticism, allow for instant playing (no need to download before playing), and reduce pirating. However, without 5G, cloud computing has serious drawbacks, the most significant of which is increased latency.
Currently, games can react significantly faster to player actions when they’re running on a computer: after all, the distance between your mouse and your computer is quite a bit smaller than between your computer and the cloud. Additionally, cloud gaming requires large bandwidth — a single game can use more than 3GB of bandwidth per hour. Because of these drawbacks, gaming is generally considered the last frontier of consumer cloud services.
With 5G, these drawbacks could disappear almost entirely, though.
Why 5G is Such an Appealing Proposition for Gaming Providers and Players Alike
5G has latency that’s so short that from a consumer perspective it feels instantaneous — currently the 4G standard is 10 milliseconds, while 5G would reduce it to .5 milliseconds. Additionally, 5G would allow gamers to stream old games on new devices, which would solve an enormous pain point for gamers and also provide additional revenue on old intellectual property. Finally, once 5G has been truly rolled out, console makers could create on-the-go high-quality gaming experiences, a capability that consumers have clamored for.
In other words, 5G would enable the same level of ease of access, quality of experience, and cross-device accessibility that consumers currently have through music and video streaming platforms. For years, this has been little more than a far-off dream, but as of quite recently, it’s become a pending reality.
The necessary technology for 5G is already here (although the US certainly won’t be getting it from Huawei). Now, it’s just a matter of deploying it, first in city centers and then in more rural areas. From Vodafone teaming up with PlayGiga to EA’s announcement of its cloud-based gaming technology, to Sprint’s partnership with Hatch Entertainment, it’s clear that gaming companies and telecom providers alike see a bright imminent future for cloud gaming on 5G.