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Optical Networking, Redefined.
August 16, 2023

The Access Network: Getting Your Head in the Game for the New Era of Entertainment

A new era of entertainment is here.

Welcome, game developers of the future! It’s truly an exciting time to be in the industry. According to Statista, the global video games market is on pace to reach a market volume of over $520 billion in 2027, up from roughly $384 billion in 2022. Developing engaging games and delivering them seamlessly across a variety of platforms (i.e., consoles, desktops, mobile devices and even via the cloud) for individual consumption or even mass gaming tournaments requires high-bandwidth, high-performance networks. In many ways, optical networks are a key driver of the gaming industry’s continued growth – and an increasing number of decision-makers and leaders within the sector are recognizing that.

To ensure their digital destinies, the gaming sector is turning to the strength of partnerships, working with network providers to leverage the higher bandwidth and better performance of their upgraded access networks. In this blog, we want to pull back the curtain for the gaming industry and explore some of the innovative technologies network providers are implementing to meet their needs for enhanced, reliable, low latency connectivity.

The Growing Demands of the Gaming Industry

The gaming industry has witnessed exponential growth in recent years. With the advent of online multiplayer games and increasing player expectations, game developers like Blizzard, EA Games, Ubisoft and others are on a constant quest to improve the speed and deliverability of their games. But when it comes to enjoying new titles, gamer’s preferences are increasingly shifting away from the console, desktop or laptop to their mobile devices. Statista predicts that, by 2027, there will be 2.3 billion mobile gamers, up from approximately 1.75 billion in 2022.

Entertainment

Much like the media & entertainment sector (i.e., streaming providers like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, etc.), the gaming industry is increasingly focused on improving its network infrastructure to provide seamless experiences to gamers across all kinds of platforms. As any game studio knows, however, its player base is not static in nature. The networks the gaming sector relies on must also be agile, able to handle unexpected spikes in user traffic during key events like game launches, seasonal updates, or even unforeseen global events (like the 2020 pandemic). Enhanced network connectivity has never been more of a pressing need for the gaming industry.

Finally, the need for quick and secure internal collaboration among colleagues and business partners across borders and time zones has become crucial in today’s globalized gaming development landscape. To support these requirements, game developers will need high-performance, secure optical networks that can accommodate massive, low latency data transfers reliably.

As gaming companies continue to expand on a global scale, they are increasingly relying on network provider partners to deliver the performance required to meet their needs. And that’s where we at Precision OT come in. Everything about the growth of the gaming industry comes back to partnerships. As gaming companies work with network providers, those same telecommunications companies need a partner who can manufacture vital optical equipment and provide the systems integration expertise to ensure that their upgraded networks will work the way they need them to.

Let’s look at a few exciting ways in which access networks are transforming to benefit the global gaming industry.

Access Networks: Upgrading to Meet the Challenge

The key to meeting the demands of the gaming industry lies in the upgrade pathways pursued by today’s network providers. From 400G and even 800G to 5G mobile networks, a growing number of telecommunications companies are investing in technologies that will deliver significant performance benefits. That said, each comes with its own implementation challenges. Here’s what they are and how we are helping.

  1. Embracing 400ZR and OpenZR+

    To cater to the bandwidth-hungry gaming industry, network providers are upgrading their networks to support 400ZR and OpenZR+, two modern standards for pluggable, coherent 400G DWDM optics (transceivers). These standards offer the high capacity and high-performance gaming companies need to collaborate and distribute their content globally. As an OIF standard, 400ZR coherent optics provide 400Gbps of bandwidth over a single optical wavelength using DWDM. This enables point-to-point 400GbE data center interconnect (DCI) for distances between 80-120km, with the use of amplifiers but without a need for specialized optical transport equipment. It uses small form factor pluggable modules like QSFP-DD (an industry favorite) and OSFP, which makes for a relatively smooth upgrade path.

    OpenZR+ is a continuation of 400ZR, offering a coherent solution that can provide greater functionality over longer distances than 400ZR optics. Put another way, OpenZR+ gives network providers the high-performance of 400ZR in a small form factor pluggable module, but for applications (think metro, regional and long-haul) and lengths beyond DCI. This technology will be critical in supporting gaming providers as they work to improve the speed and deliverability of their content. That said, implementing 400ZR and especially OpenZR+ is not without challenges that revolve around power requirements, interoperability and network management/orchestration tools. Fortunately, the Precision OT team can help with this through our systems integration expertise, customized solutions and rigorous lab testing. To learn more about this area, download our free eBook here

  2. Advancing to 800G
    Let’s look beyond 400G to the future. Network providers are, of course, not stopping at 400G. In fact, the push towards 800G is already happening gradually. For example, AT&T has already announced that it has its “eye on pushing the core to 800G as costs come down.” Similarly, Verizon is also experimenting with this technology as it prepares for “an explosion in data generation from enterprise and consumer 5G applications.” Thanks to the hard work that has been done in the realm of 400G, the roadmap to 800G pluggables appears relatively straightforward but with a few key differences. Here’s what we mean.

    Just like the standards that exist for various 400G applications, including DR4, DR4+, FR4, ZR and OpenZR+, we can expect 800G optical transceivers to follow suit. We will see both pluggable grey 800G optics like SR8, DR8 and FR8 as well as 800G coherent optics like ZR proliferate throughout the networks of the future. Once again, however, power consumption and thermal management demands will challenge the existing platforms of today’s network operators and shake up which models become prevalent. Linking this technology back to the gaming industry, however, the push to 800G is going to be transformative, especially as the industry shifts towards cloud gaming and eSport tournaments. This upgrade will further elevate network capacity, enabling seamless gaming experiences and improved ability to accommodate spikes in traffic. For more information on 800G and what we believe the future of this technology will look like, download our eBook.

  3. Unleashing the Power of 5G
    Finally, as the gaming industry continues to innovate, network providers are rolling out 5G services to deliver higher data rates, ultra-low latency, higher reliability, massive network capacity, and dense connections. 5G technology promises to revolutionize the gaming landscape, providing unparalleled experiences for mobile gamers and supporting real-time gameplay interactions like never before.

    For 5G services to realize their full potential, complete layer 1 solutions are required. The pathway to 5G starts by evolving the connectivity landscape that the networking industry was previously used to with 4G LTE. 5G networks use some radio frequencies in a band known as Sub 6 (600MHz – 6GHz), part of which is also used in 4G LTE. However, 5G also uses a higher band of frequencies from 24GHz to 86GHz. These higher frequencies can carry more data with higher performance but not as far as those used with previous technologies. Given that 5G will need to support 1 million devices every 0.386 square miles, this new service will require the use of a vast amount of so-called “small cells,” smaller versions of the big cellular towers we all know.

    To make this all possible, a complete Layer 1 solution is required. The phrase “Layer 1” refers to the physical hardware components of a 5G network, which process and transmit digital data from place to place. Network operators will use these components, from the mobile core (also known as the headend/central office of a network provider) to the outdoor macrocells (providing low-frequency radio coverage for miles) and small cells (high-frequency coverage for short distances). These components range from transceivers of all data rates from 1G to 400G, a myriad of AWG and TFF filters, UPC/APC connectors, fiber jumpers, muxes and demuxes, rackmounts, fiber management trays, breakout panels and much more.  These components will work in unison to deliver the ultra-responsive network that gamers and studios need. Learn more about our Layer 1 capabilities here.

The Power of Partnerships

In short, building robust and high-performance access networks for the gaming industry is a collaborative effort. It requires strong partnerships between gaming companies and their network providers and the network providers and the equipment manufacturers they rely on. Only by aligning their goals and leveraging each other’s strengths can these partners create a network that meets the demands of the gaming industry.

At Precision OT, we make it our job to stand out as more than just an equipment manufacturer. With a team of advanced engineers, we’re able to work with network providers to understand their needs, customize solutions accordingly and rigorously stress test them in our laboratories to ensure their reliability, performance and interoperability with other pre-existing network equipment. We’ve been doing this for years and have had the pleasure of working with some of the largest names in the optical networking sector. So, here’s to the gaming industry’s future – one wavelength at a time.