Why Fortnite Should Convince Telcos to Level Up to 5G

J. Hewer

Summary Bullets:

  • Fortnite has yet to hit Android, but it’s already pulling in $1 million a day on mobile. Demanding low latency and constant connectivity, most gamers are currently confined to WiFi.
  • Next-generation mobile gaming needs 5G, and with a huge global player base, operators should look to gamers to justify 5G.

5G connectivity promises vast improvements in performance over 4G networks; new tech means apps will make use of the available 5G spectrum to ensure faster speeds, and gaming on mobile will benefit. How this technology will be used and potentially adopted at scale will drive the required infrastructure investment.

Mobile carriers in Asia, the Middle East and North America are fronting the cash, hoping that when 5G devices appear next year, early adopters will flock to their networks. But to crack open this piggy bank, it’s going to take more than enhanced mobile broadband for traditional Internet-based content, which is adequately served by 4G right now.

During the Winter Olympics, Korean carrier KT piloted 5G for mobile broadband. In addition to the operating lessons learnt, the company’s 5G task force leader, Lee Jong-sik, reiterated that oft-repeated adage that how best to monetize this next-generation connectivity remains a “big headache.”

Driverless cars are one possible solution; however, insurance legislation and technological immaturity remain barriers. Similarly, growth in drone technology, whilst theoretically enhanced by 5G, is far from dependent on it. Take Starship Technologies, which next year will be expanding its fleet of 20 delivery bots 50-fold.

For German car maker Mercedes Benz, postal service Swiss Post, food delivery firm Just Eat and UK supermarket the Co-op, trials of drones trundling along at 10 mph need only ultrasonic detection, cameras, radar and GPS. Therefore, operators are going to have to look outside of the enterprise market to justify early 5G investments.

One in three people on the planet are paying for games on PC and mobile. Whilst perhaps the biggest title, Pokémon Go, needed little more than onboard hardware and GPS, far more taxing games are coming down operators’ pipes. Take Epic Games’ Fortnite as an example. Earlier this year, we saw Fortnite Battle Royale released on Apple iOS. And whilst not the first headline title to hit mobile devices, it represents a sea change for gaming complexity on mobile. Fortnite is quite the zeitgeist, attracting the ire of educators and the praise of rappers, sport stars, actors and gamers alike.

The games industry in general is moving to a utility, game-as-a-service model, necessitating the need for robust streaming infrastructure. With Fortnite Battle Royale pulling in daily revenue of $1 million and having not even hit Android yet, other premium gaming titles will be circling. And if cellular networks could better serve Epic Games’ behemoth – not to mention keeping up with the evolution and service models of the video games market – then more users may flock to these network owners.

Whilst the enterprise market is seen as the cash cow for operator investments, it is high-bandwidth consumer applications which perhaps serve as the first real use case for 5G. Gaming is a vast segment in terms of user base and potential revenues, and underserving it could risk ‘game over.’ As more gaming and interactive media content forces out more traditional media, those operators first to use 5G should find that gamers are well worth them levelling up.

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