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Gaming Express (Feb 28) - Why the internet of today cannot cope with gaming of tomorrow

HGC Gaming express

How many times have you tried logging in somewhere, and you were faced with the much dreaded “I’m sorry, this service cannot be reached at the moment” message? Surely more often than you should have.

With 4.66 billion users, the internet was not originally built to deal with the high demand of such a connected society like we are, let alone to cope with graphic and bandwidth intensive games. Add in things like the fast-spreading usage of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets, the shop-phistication
of several services such as gaming, the arrival of the metaverse and the accelerated growth in smart “things” – cities, objects, homes, etc -, and the internet is reaching a breaking point.

But let’s rewind a few decades first. The internet was originally created for military purposes in the US in the 1960s, as an answer to the fear of an attack against the country’s telephone network by the Soviet Union.

Facing such challenge, a new way of communication was needed. This is when “packet switching” was invented. By 1969, the first node-to-node message was delivered between two computers through what was known as ARPAnet. Other computers were added to the network in Hawaii, the UK and Norway. As the ecosystem grew and became geographically spread, it also became harder to manage.

Fast-forward to 1991 and following several attempts during the 1980s to transfer files and data from one computer to another, the internet was once more “re-invented”, this time by British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who introduced the World Wide Web.

And the rest is history. Powered by telecoms players, throughout the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, the internet became almost like a commodity to many. Some would even say it became as important as or even more important than having access to sunlight, potable water or heating.

Today, the internet is shifting to the future to cope with an ever-growing user base, especially bandwidth intensive verticals such as gaming, who is frequently faced with internet bottlenecks. These bottlenecks are usually caused by a system that has been slowed down due to limited resources, be it bandwidth depletion, too many online devices, not enough bandwidth or server overloading.

What is the problem today?

According to the International Telecommunications Union, the internet has experienced a surge in users in the last 15 years, as infrastructure expanded coverage and lower costs brought connectivity to the masses.

For instance, in 2005, only about 16% of the world’s 6.5 billion population was online. More than half (51%) of those living in the developed world were online, with only 8% of those in the developing world using internet services

Fast-forward to 2019, and in a world with 7.75 billion people, we have about 53.6% of the population online, including 88.6% of the developed world and a huge jump in the developing world, with 47% of people online.

Recent research published by Visual Capitalist sourced out by Datareportal shows that the largest opportunity in terms of internet users that are yet to become so lies in Asia, especially in South East Asia.

The internet created nearly 30 years ago, is what we are using to connect all these billions of users. And this is a complicated operation as communication is done in blocks, or packets, meaning information is not transported as a whole, but in pieces with different stops on the way.

This opens doors to data loss, or packet loss. Think of when a game freezes, and a player that was in point A, suddenly appears in point B without you have seen that character moving through the game. The “teleportation” within the gaming environment is a standard example of packet loss. This tremendously impacts the user experience. Latency, lag, jitter, are just some of the resulting consequences every gamer experiences from packet loss.

As we move towards a more immersive gaming experience with metaverse, it is clear the current internet cannot cope with it. And not just from a system perspective, but also an infrastructure point of view.

Take subsea cables for instance, most internet traffic travels through cables laid at the bottom of our oceans. However, cables have historically been laid between more developed and/or large economies. Most services come in fact from the US, leaving huge distance gaps with hundreds of millions of users.

Add to this the usual “politics”, and sometimes the journey data has to undertake goes from being a direct straightforward “trip”, to going around thousands of extra kilometres until it is delivered. Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing policies are to blame for this, as focus is on keeping transfer costs down versus shortening the transfer travel route.

Think for example of a low-cost airline. Although you can fly direct to a far away destination, to save money you might opt for a low-cost option with several stop overs. Not only you will take longer than going direct, but you will also fly a longer distance geographically speaking, possible even going in the opposite direction of the final destination to get to an airport that providers a cheaper flight to the destination.

BGPs work the same way. Not to mention BGP does not take into consideration system’s downtime, so data will still be herded through a route even when offline. This, again, results in more lag and latency to the end user.

These are just some of the bottlenecks damaging the user experience in the internet of today, something that will not be tolerable as we become ever more “on life”.

How we will get there

All this calls for a new way of doing gaming business. It has never been as important to be close to the gamer as it is now. Edge computing holds the promise to really bring compute power closer to the eyeballs and reduce the amount of long-distance data transfers.

Nonetheless, edge computing alone cannot solve all our gaming problems. This is where 5G comes in, offering quicker downloads, much lower lag and a significant impact on how we play. 5G can offer up to 10Gbps, ten times what even 4G LTE is capable of offering.

This not only speeds up machine-to-machine conversations, but it also enables for more graphic intensive, real time, multi-player environments. Remember Ready Player One? 5G is brining us closer to that type of world. And with conversations around 6G also picking up pace, you can expect a lot to happen in this place in the coming years.

Still, edge and 5G cannot deliver the ultimate experience. This is where network integration comes in; a new way of managing your network, making it more intelligent, reactive and bullet-proof.

As you can read, the internet must change to adapt to the needs of a rapidly growing gaming market that is outpacing the internet’s capabilities. Overcoming the issues of packet loss, lag, latency, are key and this requires a more concentrated effort and clear thinking when deploying and managing modern infrastructure.

This is where HGC is a leading player in the field. HGC acts as a network aggregator and single contact point for OTTs to reach end users very quickly as the infrastructure is well established with interconnection to local carriers, ISPs and MNOs.

This results in OTTs being able to reach a large number of users – or as we like to call them, eyeballs – in a multitude of geographies at the switch of a button. Check out for example our latest addition, Eyeball-as-a-Service (EaaS).

If you wish to learn more about how HGC can support your gaming business, feel free to reach out directly to me and we can chat through it all.Keep gaming and lets build a internet suitable for the best user experience together.

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