Google’s streaming game platform Stadia has implications for 5G

5G will be able to deliver the bandwidth and probably also the low latency for high-definition wireless gaming. (Getty Images)

Google made waves in the streaming video world last week when it unveiled its new cloud-based gaming platform Stadia.

Users will be able to stream Stadia on a variety of connected devices, such as tablets, laptops and TVs, without needing a special game console. They can play the game with either existing controllers or Google’s own Stadia controller.

In addition to the convenience of playing the game on more devices, a big benefit for users is that a cloud gaming service such as Stadia eliminates the need to download or acquire a hard copy of new releases. All updates will be handled in the cloud, and users can play the latest version of the game on demand.

The only potential fly in the ointment is that the speed and latency of the streaming will vary dependent on the game player’s internet connection.

Enter 5G

Google says that its cloud servers will allow Stadia to stream games in 4K ultra-high definition resolution at 60 fps and, in the future, Google said it will be able to support 8K and higher than 120 fps.

While most gamers, tethered to a gaming console, have relied on their wired internet connection, cloud gaming opens the door to more gaming over wireless connections. You might want to lay on the couch and play Stadia on your tablet, for instance.

“Google said you would need 25 Mbps on the connection for Stadia stability,” said industry analyst Iain Gillott, president of iGR. “If you’re going to do that on LTE today, most connections will have a problem with that. Depending on what you’re trying to do, you’ll also need low latency, and that could be a problem.”

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Low latency is important for gaming so that there is no lag time; for instance, the time between when a user shoots a space invader and when the space invader explodes.

Gillott said 5G will be able to deliver the bandwidth and probably also the low latency for high-definition wireless gaming.

“The latency between the eye and inner ear is 13 milliseconds,” he said, adding that latencies above 13 milliseconds cause sensory conflict between the eye and the ear, which can result in people feeling sick.

The goal of 5G is to deliver latency of 1 millisecond.

5G's Killer Use Case?

About a year ago, iGR issued a report “U.S. 5G Revenues, 2017-2027: The billions and where they come from.”

The firm estimates that by 2021, entertainment (including gaming) will be 6% of 5G revenue from consumers. In addition to entertainment, the research firm forecasts four other major sources of revenue that mobile operators can expect from 5G. Those include 5G mobile broadband service, 5G IoT, 5G fixed wireless access and advertising.

At Sprint’s press conference at MWC 2019 to announce its initial rollout of 5G, executives said they thought one of the first big use cases for 5G would likely be gaming.