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Telcos use network slicing to tap into gaming opportunity

By providing gamers with a dedicated ‘fast lane’ on their networks, telcos will be able to monetise a key 5G use case

We have written previously about how the key 5G revenue opportunities for telcos will come from the enterprise and vertical industries. But how will this be achieved?

A key enabler on the network side will be the ability to offer effective 5G ‘network slicing’. By slicing the network into separate components that can be designed for specific industries or use cases, operators will be able to offer tailored solutions to a wide range of new customers, unlocking new revenue streams along the way.

In a recent report, Ericsson describes network slicing as combining the benefits of both public and private standalone networks. That means taking advantage of the coverage and convenience of a regular public mobile network, but with the ability for it to be “rapidly deployed, configured, modified and taken down” in the manner of a private network (and at significantly lower cost).

The various ‘slices’ will exist on a single physical network infrastructure, but – as Deutsche Telekom explains – “different service characteristics and quality parameters can then be provided to each ‘slice’ adapted to customer needs with full isolation between slices, enabling operators to develop new differentiated services and business models.”

The list of network slicing uses cases cuts across many industries, automotive, healthcare and manufacturing being chief among them. However, one of the most immediate sectors to benefit could be gaming.

This summer, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson and Samsung jointly announced that they had achieved a “world first” by demonstrating 5G network slicing using a commercial 5G device (the Samsung Galaxy S21) to enable a high-bandwidth cloud gaming experience via a VR headset.

The lab-based demonstration claimed an important milestone: the successful implementation of a 5G slicing policy feature that allows a device to steer applications and services with specific requirements to a defined slice

In the demo, two independent network slices were created: a default mobile broadband slice and the cloud VR gaming-optimised gaming slice – with higher throughput and stable low latency focused on the gaming slice. And at the same time, it provided resource isolation between the two slices and Quality of Service (QoS) differentiation. The trial was able to demonstrate a superior experience on the gaming slice even under congested network conditions.

What is the outlook for this type of networking slicing application?

Ericsson expects gaming to be a $7 billion market opportunity for telcos by the end of the decade, with mobile gaming alone worth $1 billion as a near-term opportunity.

The vendor noted in a recent report that “the advancement of 5G opens up a much larger addressable market for new gaming services, including new cloud-based gaming services. With the advent of the cloud and new hardware, AR, VR and XR devices and high-resource cloud data centres will drive new gaming opportunities.”

Gaming has grown to become more prominent than the movie and music industries combined; the market is on track to surpass $200 billion in revenue by 2023.

But problems arise with the high bandwidth nature of modern online gaming – especially when delivered via the cloud over public mobile networks.

Lag or latency is the annoying delay between a player’s move and the game’s reaction. It is often reported as the number-one problem faced in multiplayer online games. As a result, publishers of popular games such as Fortnite, League of Legends, and Call of Duty are increasingly looking for solutions that can provide an ‘upgraded internet’ that delivers an optimised ’fast lane’ for gamers and reduces that annoying lag.

As a result, many technologies are emerging to address areas around gaming network performance and the optimisation of gaming network traffic. And this is where network slicing can help: a gaming ‘slice’ is able to assure guaranteed throughput levels and can be configured to meet network capacity needs.

Telcos now have to define how their gaming business models will work. They could, for example, bundle gaming into a standard mobile subscription or offer a gaming-as-a-service option.

Crucially, gaming could be one of the few areas where subscribers are prepared to pay a premium for 5G. According to Ericsson, 95 per cent of mobile users would be willing to pay more for a 5G-powered cloud gaming service that delivered an enhanced Quality of Experience.

So expect telcos to be serving up gaming ‘slices’ sometime soon.

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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