How the rise of 5G gaming could transform global industries

By Nedko Nedev

Gaming and eSports are at the forefront of technology, except for when it comes to mobile. That’s because mobile networks have always had a fatal flaw for gamers – high latency. There’s a longer delay between pressing a button and a character taking action than there is through a fixed connection.

While online gaming platforms have become better at concealing the effects of high latency, the experience (and probability of winning) is still sub-par. The theoretical loopback latency of 4G, that is the round-trip time for data to get from the mobile user to the network and back, is 20 millisecond (ms), but the current average in the UK is 50ms. That makes a gamer seem slow to react compared to someone using fibre-optic broadband, which has an average latency in the UK of 15ms.

With a 5G network, however, loopback latency can be as low as 2ms. Suddenly the 5G gamer would have an advantage. Although 5G is an evolution of the 4G technology, the change in latency is a revolution that could see the gaming industry lead advancements across sectors.

5G will give rise to new gaming formats

5G can enable innovative mobile gaming products with real-time online capabilities that, when combined with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), will transform gaming experiences.

While Pokémon GO experimented with AR in 4G mobile gaming, low-latency 5G will deliver a much more immersive experience. And the market is already abuzz. Niantic’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite promises to employ 5G to seamlessly combine our real world with the wizarding world. LG Uplus is relying on 5G’s ultra-low latency to launch a high-quality cloud-based VR gaming platform.

AR/VR is forecast to account for up to 50 per cent of the traffic in 5G, excluding the streaming of gaming videos by eSports fans, and while such bold forecasts don’t always materialise, 5G’s advances are enough to cause a major market ripple in the gaming industry.

5G gaming will impact other markets

Historically, the gaming industry has developed innovative technologies that other industries have adopted later. For example, Oculus created its Rift VR headset for gaming, but now trainee surgeons can use it to get an immersive operating room experience.

The new mobile gaming technologies that 5G enables will also have applications in the cosmetics, interior design, fashion, healthcare, security and military industries. Low-latency AR could help doctors treat, or provide permanent support for, conditions such as vertigo or colour blindness. The cosmetics industry already uses AR to let customers try products digitally, and 5G will make such in-store experiences better and more accessible.

5G offers technology advances that will bring extensive innovation to the gaming industry. While 5G will take years to deploy fully, the big cities that get 5G first will soon start to give rise to new gaming experiences. These early advances will quickly diffuse into other industries, creating up to $1.3 trillion in value over the next decade.

About the authors

Nedko Nedev Telecom and ICT expert

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