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Airtel demos 5G-based cloud gaming service at IMC 2022

Airtel demonstrated a 5G-based cloud gaming service at the India Mobile Congress 2022. The service allows gamers to bring in their existing game libraries from consoles or PC with both Steam and Epic Games being supported and play them remotely via the cloud and Airtel’s 5G network. The only requirement is Airtel’s 5G connectivity and a subscription to their platform. 

The Telecom company hasn’t given out any information at the moment, only hinting at a release date later next year. 

Most cloud gaming services are plagued by either a lack of playable games or increased latency that can ruin the playing experience. Airtel claims anywhere between 15-30ms of latency, which might work well in single-player and AAA titles, but it remains to be seen how the service will fare when running multiplayer or eSports titles. 

Airtel demos 5G-based cloud gaming service at IMC 2022
Airtel has some bold claims about the new service’s performance.

Another exciting feature of the service, as mentioned before, is the ability to bring in your own game library. This means that gamers can buy their games for a respective platform, whether PlayStation, Xbox or PC and can play them on at least a smartphone (Airtel’s demo was running off an unlabelled smartphone) as long as it supports 5G connectivity. 

This can be great news for gamers who already own games they’d like to play but are otherwise limited by the hardware they own. Cloud gaming fixes the hardware problem as games are run on the cloud and essentially streamed to your device, eliminating the need for top-of-the-line hardware.

It’s unclear at the moment how Airtel is pulling this off, or whether the service will be a one-time purchase or will have a subscription-based model. The latter seems more likely considering there might be different tiers for casual and professional games.

Airtel demos 5G-based cloud gaming service at IMC 2022
Since the demo was being cast to a TV, there was some loss in visual quality.

The performance at Airtel’s demo seemed rather well and the Monster Jam game that they were running seemed responsive enough to be enjoyable. While the company claims you can max out the in-game graphics and have yourself a visual treat, we wouldn’t be too sure of that.

Since the demo was running on a phone and being cast to a much larger TV screen, there was obvious pixel tearing and a loss in quality. That said, it was still a much better experience, at least visually, than playing at 15FPS with graphics that essentially resemble Minecraft.

This is also a fully software-based service. The company doesn’t plan to release any hardware such as controllers in the foreseeable future. We also don’t know at the moment whether this is going to be a smartphone exclusive or if there’s going to be a PC or console companion app allowing users to log in and use other, bigger displays to play their games. 

Airtel demos 5G-based cloud gaming service at IMC 2022
The Airtel demo was running Monster Jam off of an unknown platform.

Cloud gaming services can be a bit of a hit or miss with customers and their success mostly relies on game availability and performance. Combined with the recent gaming industry boom that India has seen, cheaper internet connectivity and the large-scale availability of 5G capable smartphones, Airtel might have a hit in the bag if they manage to do it right. 

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