The communications industry has always been closely entwined with the gaming industry. The latter has been gradually diverting away from isolated offline experiences, towards the inclusivity and competitiveness of the online arena. Mobile devices have increased the popularity of gaming, enabling the flexibility for users to play from almost any location. According to Newzoo, the mobile gaming industry makes up almost 50 percent of the gaming market.

However, mobile gaming – on tablets and smartphones – offers a much less sophisticated experience than users get on a console, due to the lack of processing power the devices offer. Today’s 3G and 4G networks can be unreliable, particularly in busy outdoor areas. Therefore, online gaming typically requires a high-performance fixed network to ensure reliability. With the advent of 5G and cloud gaming, this could soon change.

5G and the cloud usher in a new era of gaming

Google Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud snatched the headlines at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) earlier this year, and rightly so. Cloud gaming will remove clunky hardware and consoles altogether, with the computation processing taking place in a hosted server (datacenter). This means games that require large amounts of processing power will now be accessible on mobile devices with much lower processing power. Games will be streamed online, in a similar way to how we watch Netflix and Amazon Prime. Like Netflix and Amazon Prime, cloud gaming will require a reliable, and high-performance internet connection.

5G will provide the high-performance connectivity for cloud gaming to be realized on almost any device. It offers ultra-low latency (virtually no lag), creating a more seamless and enjoyable online experience for consumers. This will transform the experiences users have on consoles, mobile devices, and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets.

Using 5G connectivity, gamers can play online from almost any location with guaranteed levels of reliability. Hypothetically, somebody could enter an eSports competition, over the cloud, from a park bench or on a bus using a mobile device or tablet, with the guarantee of a reliable connection.

The opportunity for communication service providers

5G A 5G antenna is seen at Deutsche Telekom stand on the first day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 26, 2018. Photo: PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images

Telecoms providers will have to invest heavily in both 5G and fixed broadband architectures to supplement the demand for the internet connections to enable cloud and online gaming. The compute power that resides at the edge of their networks is likely to be leveraged for gaming, reducing lag time and enabling more interactive and immersive in-game experiences, such as AR and VR.

As infrastructure spend skyrockets, communication service providers will be on the lookout for ways to monetize cloud gaming. Fortunately, there is ample opportunity to do so beyond the provision of connectivity and compute power. They could bring to market mobile handsets that are optimized for 5G and cloud gaming, in a move that would transform gaming and place CSPs at the heart of developments in the market.

The successful integration of video services into the offerings of mobile operators over the last few years presents a clear model for how this could be achieved. Expanding the range of entertainment services on offer by bundling gaming services into these customer packages is the next logical step. We could even expect CSPs to launch their own games, becoming a one-stop-shop for gaming services, competing directly with the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Google.

Supplemented by premium connectivity packages that would guarantee ultra-high bandwidth and lower latency to ensure the quality of service demanded by serious online gamers, these services could catapult CSPs to the forefront of next-gen gaming in what would be the biggest shakeup to the industry since its inception.

Allan Dembry is CIO of Vubiquity, a division of Amdocs Media, a provider of end-to-end solutions to build, enable or power consumer-facing, premium video services.