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Cloud & Virtualization

How Gaming Provides a Glimpse of Future Network Capabilities


Industry experts see the ability to deliver robust and reliable gaming performance as a forerunner to supporting autonomous cars, remote surgery, and other emerging high-profile use cases that provide essential services. Requirements for future gaming success include 5G MEC, cloud latency, and security testing, integrated with emulation and continuous testing, to deliver optimal QoE.

Gaming adoption has ballooned to more than 100 million users. The global gaming industry is projected to be worth $321B by 2026, according to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-26. Gamers are demanding more bandwidth, engaging from consoles, mobile devices, and new device platforms. The size and scale of this lucrative market leaves little room for error.

What’s this mean in the big picture for the future of networking?

Emerging use cases such as autonomous cars, remote surgery, and other nascent high-profile products and services providing essential functionalities with precise and instantaneous accuracy have become synonymous with stringent network requirements. Many industry experts see the proven ability to deliver robust and reliable gaming performance as a forerunner to supporting these critical essential use cases.

What’s that mean for gaming in the short term?

Network challenges are the most formidable foe gamers face. The near-term impact of gaming will likely take a sizable toll on networks. Issues will crop up in the form of variable latency issues, long frame response times, lack of availability, slow upload rates, and poor video quality. In the process, data traffic, latency, or real-time scalability requirements will surpass anything we’ve seen to date. With the right testing approach, however, these challenges can be anticipated and mitigated.

What’s the right testing approach for gaming?

That’s where the devil’s in the details. For a deeper dive on this topic, check out our eBook Conquering Gaming Challenges – Test and validation’s role in leveling up network performance.

In the meanwhile, keep in mind the powerful factors that are in play, where high-quality VoIP, 4K video and massive scene rendering loads are becoming par for the course. Games are using AI/ML to predict character movements and then processing anticipated scenes in the cloud. As a result, data rates are more like 100-150 megabytes per hour per user.

This is just the beginning, as the top gaming platforms reveal plans to invest billions into games, metaverses and technologies that will redefine immersive play. They’re putting tens of thousands of GPUs in the cloud to source and render scenes in real-time. Video quality supporting VR headsets will soon hit dual 8K display resolution (which will quadruple data rates).

At the same time, the volume of users has also skyrocketed. Microsoft’s s Xbox Live service grew from 40 million active users in 2016 to 100 million just five years later. Not only has the number of users increased dramatically, but gamers are now online for many hours a day.

This all adds up to a massive increase in data traversing the network and a much more complex service to deliver. Yet gamers will still expect premium experiences, making low latency and zero disruptions a new imperative.

Spotlight on 5G MEC latency and security testing

5G MEC latency testing

Multi-access edge computing (MEC) networks provide gaming and other applications that require high performance, such as ultra-low latency, to be run closer to the customer. With MEC, data is processed and stored locally, at the edge of the network, thus reducing latency and jitter, and improving performance and speed.

Spirent has benchmarked real-world edge network performance, providing critical insights into important MEC performance measurements and what can actually be achieved via today’s networks.

The latency of the real-world MEC services fluctuated significantly by time and across regions and lacked symmetry between the uplink and downlink speeds. Performance optimization will be required to support use cases like gaming that rely on consistent latency.

These are important reasons to perform rigorous MEC acceptance testing and benchmarking during and after deployment. In addition, continuous latency benchmarking can help prioritize and optimize network efficiency by identifying and isolating what is impacting latency inside and outside the network.

5G MEC security testing

One of the defining characteristics of MEC solutions is that they are open, virtualized, and disaggregated environments. MEC data centers will host a large variety of stakeholders, applications, APIs, data, and technologies that constantly interact and may be distributed geographically.

While these factors provide considerable benefits, they also make MEC solutions vulnerable to constantly evolving cyber threats. Since e-commerce is anticipated to be a primary gaming revenue source, gaming companies are expected to create their own platform and game metaverses, including marketplaces to sell virtual, nonfungible tokens (NFTs). Ensuring MEC security from the earliest stage of planning and development is essential.

Security testing is a crucial aspect of any 5G MEC deployment to prevent the infrastructure from falling prey to data theft, downtime, and other attacks. These threats must be understood and ultimately mitigated with rigorous and comprehensive testing in both the development and live environments.

Ensuring gaming quality of experience

The essential question to consider right now is how infrastructure will be tested to ensure it delivers the quality of experience (QoE) required for gaming to be a success, and by implication, critical applications in the future. Spirent understands gaming will prove an important driver of future networks. Having an accurate assessment of how the network is behaving (we call it realism under scale) will require a nimble, adaptive approach. The cost of failure from not testing or testing incorrectly can be substantial in the near and long term.

Read our eBook Conquering Gaming Challenges – Test and validation’s role in leveling up network performance or visit our Mobile Gaming Experience Testing page to learn more.

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Chris Chapman

Senior Methodologist, Spirent

With over 20 years in Telecommunications and 11+ years of network performance theory, Chris has extensive knowledge in testing and deployment of L1-7 network systems. His expertise includes performance analysis of QoS, QoE, TCP, IP (v4 and v6), UDP, QoE, HTTP(S), FTP, WAN acceleration, BGP, OSPF, IS-IS. MPLS, LDP, RSVP, VPLS, firewalls and load balancers. His specialties are centered on testing L1-7.