Cloud gaming could account for half of 5G traffic

Video traffic management outfit Openwave Mobility chatted to some operators and they reckon cloud gaming will account for 25-50% of 5G traffic.

The anecdotal finding was arrived at during a livecast hosted by Openwave, which was apparently attended by a bunch of operators. Most of them, we’re told, believe cloud gaming could represent 25% to 50% of 5G data traffic by 2022. This assumption was heavily influenced by observing the trajectory of the cloud gaming industry in general.

“The recent emergence of cloud gaming platforms including Google Stadia, Apple Arcade, Microsoft xCloud and Snap Games has not escaped the attention of the operator community,” said John Giere, CEO of Openwave Mobility. “OTT players have ambitious plans to become the ‘Netflix for gaming’, hosting libraries of thousands of instantly accessible games that, ultimately, will consume three to four times the amount of bandwidth on 5G networks, compared to standard definition video traffic. Needless to say this will impact mobile operator data strategies.

“While 5G network rollouts are still in their infancy, OTTs are already planning Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality services, in addition to cloud gaming. Combined with the expected continued growth of streaming video, these services will rapidly eat into the additional bandwidth provisions of 5G.”

While still in its early stages, the potential for cloud gaming does seem huge. At the very least, being able to offload the processing of gaming to the cloud will open up a new generation of thin client devices. On top of that there are things like mobile MMOs, augmented reality and virtual reality, all of which will rely not just on the increase bandwidth of 5G but crucially the low latency characteristics. So while this straw poll is hardly definitive, it’s easy to imagine cloud gaming exploding in the 5G era.

Telcos didn’t predict HD video uptake hitting 38% – Openwave Mobility

New research from Openwave Mobility claims the stress on mobile networks around the world can be put down to user uptake of HD video, which now stands at 38%.

Openwave Mobility didn’t go as far as to say telcos are not prepared for such uptake, but it is a logical conclusion. If telcos didn’t anticipate it, and are now experiencing bottlenecks on the network, preparation was lacking.

The research is based on live deployments at 30 mobile operators around the globe from 2013 to 2017. HD video only represented 5.7% of video traffic four years ago, though this number has swelled to 38%, with the team expecting this trend to continue upwards to 50% by the end of 2018. This has been pinned down to the popularity of OTT streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix on mobile devices.

“OTTs have launched a land grab,” said John Giere, CEO of Openwave Mobility. “In 3 years OTTs wiped out voice revenues. In 2.5 years they wiped out messaging revenues. Is mobile data next? You bet. Along with encryption obscuring mobile networks, operators have to grapple with the unstoppable appetite for HD video content from OTT players.”

It is a story which we have become very familiar with over the last couple of years. The telcos pay for the infrastructure, only to collect the crumbs as the insatiable appetite for data continues to grow. The OTTs are only encouraging this gobble of data, while simultaneously offering free services which wipe out the cash cows of the telcos. It’s a trend which will have a lifetime, but the end doesn’t seem to be in sight for the moment. The OTTs seem happy to continue biting the hand that feeds them.

Telcos have continually been frustrated by trends, and you have to have some sympathy for them. Admittedly they were slow off the line and never got ahead of consumer trends, but the commoditization of data is essentially ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this report is the need for HD video. We understand it will produce a better resolution, but considering the size of the screen on most mobile devices, you have to question whether the benefit outweighs the increased data demands (or whether there is any notable benefit to start with). This is one instance where data throttling might be considered appropriate.

Another area of frustration for the telcos is increased volume of encrypted data. There are of course security and privacy benefits to encryption, but from an experience perspective, how can the telcos improve something which they are not aware of.

“Facing an onslaught from OTT encrypted traffic, the challenge for operators is – how can you manage what you can’t see?” said Giere.

Users are becoming less and less tolerant of buffering, though telcos are seemingly unable to do anything at the moment. The research claims 75% of all mobile traffic is now encrypted, stifling the mobile operator’s ability to maintain subscriber Quality of Experience, as encryption protocols prevent operators from being able to profile or optimize data using conventional traffic management tools.

Most of the time we are perfectly happy to point the finger at the telcos and say they are not spending/being adventurous/thinking long-term enough, but this is an area where you have to have a bit of sympathy. It is questionable whether HD is necessary, and they can’t even do anything to optimize it.