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Why 5G Gaming Needs Edge Data Centers

By Amber Caramella, Chief Revenue Officer at Netrality Data Centers

The cloud gaming industry is on the cusp of a monumental evolution. 5G wireless technology enables data transmission speeds ten times faster than 4G networks. Massive bandwidth increases will allow one hundred times more traffic capacity and enable richer, more sophisticated games to be played on mobile devices. An explosion in new gaming innovations is fast approaching, especially in live streaming, esports,augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)-based gaming. 

Although 5G technologies will unlock an exciting wave of innovation in video games, it will require vast numbers of interconnected edge data centers to come to fruition.

Need for Speed

The COVID-19 pandemic has been beneficial to the gaming industry, greatly increasing the number of gamers and expanding gamer demographics. There are roughly 215 million video game players in the United States, and they are no longer predominantly young men. In fact, the average age range of gamers is between 35 and 44 years old, and 41% of gamers in the US are women. Persons with disabilities also make up a significant portion of the gamer population, with approximately 46 million players.

Cloud gaming and esports companies need to provide a satisfactory player experience to this expanding and geographically dispersed customer base, because if there's one thing gamers hate, it's latency.

With millions of new gamers entering the fold, demand for speed and bandwidth is rapidly escalating. When players experience delays, packet loss or buffering, gaming companies lose revenue and income streams. Gamers are twice as likely to abandon a game when they experience even milliseconds of lag, and the slightest delay in esports contests could cost players millions of dollars in prize money and turn off a significant percentage of viewers. 

5G promises to reduce data streaming latency from approximately 20 milliseconds to as low as 1 millisecond. This means in-game action will be smoother and more seamless than ever before, with virtually zero lag between a player pushing a button and the game's response. The esports sector will also tremendously benefit from 5G. As the technology enables ultra-fast streaming of ultra high-definition video to mobile devices without disruption, fans will be able to tune into their favorite tournaments and follow their favorite streamers on the go wherever they are-as long as their mobile device has a 5G data plan. 

Gamers crave this 5G experience. A recent independent research study commissioned by Ribbon Communications found that 95% of gamers would pay more for a 5G gaming experience, with 60% willing to pay 50% more.

Innovations Changing the Face of Gaming

With 5G-enabled devices, new frontiers in video gaming such as AR and VR can fully realize their potential. AR and VR games depend on significant bandwidth and ultra-low latency to work effectively. The sophisticated screens and equipment needed to run next-generation AR and VR applications will require speeds and bandwidth that 4G simply doesn't offer. 

Many gamers have experienced AR in some capacity; Pokémon Go is a simple AR game that taps into a player's smartphone camera and overlays game characters onto their real-world feed. However, embedding more sophisticated and complex virtual components in a real-world view requires bandwidth-heavy processing, sharp cameras, and intricate sensors. The data also must be seamlessly delivered in real time, as delays can be disruptive to the AR experience. 

Today's 4G networks cannot support the complex, immersive AR applications that gamers expect. 5G will enable AR games to send and receive data packets at speeds that match human perception. Human sensory systems can detect incredibly small delays in visual and audio inputs. However, these delays typically become imperceptible when they are under 20 milliseconds. With 5G, gamers will be able to truly experience shared and social real-time AR experiences, and e-sports can stream AR-enhanced live events, immersing and engaging viewers like never before.

The current generation of VR imaging requires bandwidths of 10-50 Mbps, but it is expected that the next generation will require at least 100 Mbps. VR is also one of the most demanding technologies in terms of latency, because the delay between the physical movement of a user's head and the photons on the display screen being updated is one of the most crucial factors in the VR gaming experience. As with AR, VR technology must be able to react and respond at speeds imperceptible to human senses. 5G will finally make this next generation of gaming possible.

Edge Data Centers Will Be Imperative to 5G Gaming

The demands of 5G gaming are far too great for traditional, centralized cloud servers to support. Centralized clouds can't handle 5G gaming bandwidth requirements, and it takes too long for data packets to travel from gaming devices to distant centralized servers, get processed, and then travel all the way back to the devices. 5G gaming will therefore require cloud gaming providers to interconnect at numerous edge data centers. 

Edge data centers support 5G gaming's low latency requirements by placing dense processing power at localized points of presence (PoPs) geographically close to gamers and their devices, while also providing the necessary bandwidth to support rich, immersive multiplayer gaming experiences. To compete in a 5G world, gaming companies must expand their infrastructures and connect at as many PoPs as possible. According to David Linthicum, Chief Cloud Strategy Officer for Deloitte, "The cloud gaming company that provides the fastest infrastructure and the largest points of presence in data centers around the world-that's who's gonna be successful."

Gaming Companies Will Need 5G Innovation Labs

Edge data centers can also provide gaming companies with the space, equipment and 5G connectivity necessary for establishing 5G innovation hubs. Gaming and esports companies can set up in buildings that are already 5G-enabled to test and validate products and applications, bringing them to market faster and gaining competitive advantage.

Ideally, gaming companies would partner with a data center provider that owns and operates the building. This allows the flexibility to custom build innovation hubs without having to jump through management hoops to get things done or worry about permits, roof rights, equipment availability or connectivity. With these types of constraints lifted, developers can simply focus on making the best, most successful gaming experiences possible. 

"For their entire careers, developers have had to work within [hardware and bandwidth] constraints," said Cat Schmitz, a Verizon 5G Ecosystems Open Innovation team member. "They've always had to optimize, to decide what's really important and then take out the rest. On a 5G network, they don't have to do that."

The Interconnected Future of Gaming      

5G promises to enrich gaming experiences by making them increasingly more social, immersive and interactive, and unleash unprecedented innovation and capabilities within gaming and esports. However, this future can only stand on an expanded infrastructure of interconnected edge data centers. Forward-looking gaming companies will be looking to partner with data centers that are 5G-enabled, strategically located in urban centers near dense populations, and can provide unique office space for 5G test-bed environments.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber Caramella 

Amber Caramella is the Chief Revenue Officer at Netrality Data Centers. She is responsible for Netrality's revenue generation strategy and execution, including overseeing sales, marketing, strategic alliances and channel partnerships.
 
Amber has over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications and technology industries having held various positions in sales and leadership. Prior to joining Netrality, Amber served as Senior Vice President of Sales at Zayo, where she built the company's global data center vertical team. She brings vast industry experience, previously holding a variety of sales and leadership roles at Level 3 Communications (now CenturyLink), XO Communications and Allegiance Telecom.
 
Amber is on the Advisory Council of Infrastructure Masons and is the Global Executive Sponsor for IM Women. She is also an active participant of the Women's Tech Forum (WTF). Her goal is to promote diversity of women pursuing careers in technical infrastructure and data centers, and to increase visibility and career advancement of women.

Published Wednesday, June 02, 2021 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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