Jonathan Kriegel is the Chief Executive Officer of DOCOMO Digitalthe international payment arm of NTT DOCOMO.
5G is poised to bring about a transformative moment for the way consumers, creators and developers experience OTT media and gaming, meaning media is delivered directly over the internet, bypassing traditional platforms such as cable or broadcast. These low-latency connections will dramatically improve video quality and provide faster renders and response times for an improved “lifelike” content experience, leading to increased demand. For OTT media companies, online video revenues $281.7 billion in 2022, with 3.9 billion users by 2026. Meanwhile, gaming is expected to become a $272 billion by 2030, of which mobile and cloud gaming will make a significant contribution.
OTT video leads the party.
Pandemic-induced lockdowns led to a spike in OTT video content consumption, but long before the onset of Covid-19, the OTT segment was already witnessing robust growth. The OTT segment is expected to $332.5 billion industry by 2025, with user penetration 49.9% by 2026.
According to McKinsey, new use cases for 5G are likely to appear, including movies, television series and augmented reality-driven immersive live sports experiences, with 8K resolutions delivered with low latency. Amazon Prime subscribers, for example, will be able to live stream NFL games in the US and Premier League football games in the UK as early as Thursday night (Full disclosure: My company works with Amazon.), while Verizon enables VR viewing options for NBA League Pass basketball games.
Mobile carriers and OTT providers are eager to offer “bundles” of these services with 5G data tariff plans to drive faster adoption and revenue growth. Like Optus in Australia, some mobile carriers are now building marketplaces to help consumers manage multiple OTT plans.
The future of gaming is mobile.
The spate of recent high-profile acquisitions of gaming companies shows where tech heavyweights such as Microsoft, Sony, Take-Two and Tencent believe the industry is headed — to mobile and to the cloud. According to a global survey, the number of people who regularly play mobile games has increased by 12% by 2020, to more than two billion, 6% of those who did not play before the pandemic. China, the US and Japan are good for 66% of the total revenue share of mobile gaming, leaving ample room for growth in other parts of the world.
Mobile gaming is now the largest and fastest growing segment of the gaming industry, with revenue estimated at 2022 $94.8 billion† 5G networks will only fuel the exponential growth of mobile gaming in the coming years.
Cloud gaming is going to take off.
In cloud gaming, games are hosted on remote servers and rely on edge computing technologies for most of the processing, eliminating the need for expensive consoles. Most cloud gaming companies now essentially act as streamers for complex, heavy games. 5G networks will make the cloud gaming experience as good as that of an expensive console, which is why Microsoft is strongly promoting its subscription service. Newzoo’s 2021 Cloud Gaming Report Estimates Cloud Gaming Has Generated $1.6 billion revenue in 2021, expected to expand to $6.5 billion by 2024.
An early foray into cloud gaming from Netflix launched last year suggests that other OTT companies could contribute to the competition, with 5G adding an additional market boost. Microsoft’s Xbox Gamepass, Google’s Stadia (full disclosure: My company works with Google.) and NVIDIA’s GeForce Now have all steadily expanded their game libraries to take advantage of the wider rollout of 5G networks.
AR/VR gets 5G wings.
Emerging AR/VR devices are beginning to deliver enhanced gaming and content experiences. A PwC report calculates that the associated hardware and software revenue has expanded to: $1.8 billion in 2020, up 31.7% from 2019 as the price of VR consoles plummeted.
Platforms like Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite are already offering a taste of the immersive experiences possible with VR/AR technology, which are as much about social interaction as gameplay and can be extended to e-commerce, education and other activities. As 3D gaming, AR/VR will play a greater role in immersive experiences at live sports events and within the metaverse, expertly supported by the higher capacities and lower latencies of 5G networks. AR/VR gaming revenue will no doubt continue to grow alongside total AR/VR spend, with some sources estimating total consumer spending on AR/VR will increase to $72.8 billion by 2024. Niantic, the AR game developer behind Pokémon GO, announced in 2020 that it would partner with carriers including Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Verizon (as well as device manufacturers) to build a “planet-scale augmented reality platform.”
The potential to reach millions of new customers, subscribers, and players has led many developers to adopt a mobile-first strategy for creating new content and titles. In contrast, recent attention to the fees charged by Apple’s App Store and Google Play may lead to new acquisition models.
Telcos could make life even easier for their 5G OTT and gaming subscribers by integrating mobile payment options into their data and content plans. Making it easy for consumers to easily pay for content will likely stop them from switching services regularly.
To help their customers manage multiple plans, they can become hubs or aggregators for many different services where the consumer pays for everything as part of their mobile billing.
Phone service providers and OTT brands: a match made for 5G
As the rollout of 5G networks accelerates, new collaboration models will emerge between OTT brands and mobile carriers. OTT brands are just as eager to grow outside of North America and Europe as mobile carriers are looking to recoup their investments in 5G infrastructure and spectrum. Consumers will be the ultimate winners, with more choices and better experiences at their fingertips – literally.