Vodafone, Ericsson successfully trial cloud gaming on 5G Standalone network slice

Trial at Coventry University said to showcase the transformative power of 5G Standalone network slicing

Mobile and console gaming has become increasingly dominated by the cloud in recent years, with gaming in particular seen to date as being generally less immersive as current wireless connectivity services struggle to deliver the desired experience for more complex content, and in what could be a solution to this, Vodafone and Ericsson have revealed the results of a live network trial at Coventry University, which is said to have successfully demonstrated the positive impact an optimised 5G Standalone network slice could have on enhancing the mobile gaming experience for consumers.

Using network slicing, a concept that Vodafone said will allow customisable connectivity services for specific customers and use cases, the trial participants were able to experience more consistent gaming connectivity with a 270% increase in download performance, a 25% decrease in latency and 57% less jitter, as well as smoother graphics rendering.

The trial confirmed an optimised 5G Standalone network connection materially enhanced mobile gaming experience, similar to what would be expected at home on broadband, with increased speeds, more reliable cloud connection, lower latency, more consistent jitter and smoother graphics.

During the trial, participants were asked to play cloud-based mobile games under two connectivity scenarios. Scenario A simulated the public network used by day-to-day mobile users. Scenario B was an isolated 5G Standalone network slice that was optimised for cloud gaming using a network that offered higher download speeds, lower latency, reduced jitter and no risk of network congestion.

Research conducted by independent gaming insights and consultancy agency Bryter found that for Scenario A, 63% of trialists ranked satisfaction between 0/10 and 5/10, with only 13% ranking satisfaction above 8/10. Frustrations included longer loading screen times, non-synchronised sound and visual, and increased lag.

By contrast, for Scenario B, 88% of trialists ranked satisfaction above 8/10. The better gaming experience was said to be due to improved game loading (appealing to those who use gaming to pass time), smoother graphics rendering, and reduced lag and jitter (appealing to those who prefer fast-paced games).

Focus groups following the trial suggested mobile gaming enthusiasts would be highly interested in the 5G Standalone gaming experience as the benefits of faster loading and reduced lag and jitter would give them an advantage over other players.

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Vodafone added that by enabling more customisable connectivity, customers will soon be able to access a wider range of services. It said that some of these services will be business-orientated (for example, secure communications for remote workers), for consumers (such as cloud and mobile gaming) and for public services (such as remote assistance for specialist procedures in hospitals and ambulances). According to Ericsson’s network slicing report, it’s estimated that 25-30% of the potential 5G use cases will need slicing as an enabler.

“A mobile network powered by 5G standalone technology and offering associated services like network slicing are the ultimate next step in meeting connectivity demands from consumers and businesses,” said Blessing Makumbe, vice-president and head of digital services at Ericsson UK and Ireland.

“Creating tailored network quality with requirements on speed, latency and reliability not only offers the premium performance needed to satisfy the applications and services of the future, but also gives leading operators like Vodafone the opportunity to offer innovative services to enter new markets and expand their business.” 

Vodafone UK chief network officer Andrea Dona said: “5G Standalone is not an upgrade on 4G, but an entirely new type of technology. Through this trial, we provided a slice of connectivity, customised specifically for gaming, to provide a full fibre-like experience over the airwaves. This is the value of network slicing – a more personalised connectivity service to make digital more in-tune with each customer.”

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