If New Zealand's $325 million online gaming and esports industry is to continue to thrive, high speed internet connections measured in milliseconds is crucial, a senior Vodafone executive says.
Thaigan Govender, Vodafone NZ's head of Mobile Access Networks, says gaming relies so heavily on "awesome" internet speed that millisecond delays can be enough to break up games and frustrate players.
"In traditional sports seconds can count, but in gaming every millisecond matters and for gamers, the quality of their internet connection is just as important as the quality of a racket, bat or ball on the field."
Gaming is one of New Zealand's fastest growing industries. In 2020 it generated over $300 million in revenue and last year the New Zealand Game Developers Association chair Chelsea Rapp told Newshub that at the current annual growth rate of 40 per cent, it could be a billion-dollar industry by 2025.
Globally the industry generates around $167 billion in revenue making it arguably the biggest entertainment business in the world, more than the movie industry and professional sports combined.
Govender, who made his comments after Vodafone's network scored highest in New Zealand for internet speed, data and voice call quality in an independent umlaut certification report released in March, says 5G broadband and mobile opens up the possibility of gaming wherever people are.
"The difference between being good and being great in gaming can be as simple as a strong internet connection," he says. "How quickly data travels between two connected points (called latency or ping) is particularly important for delay sensitive applications like gaming and virtual reality."
Gamers see low latency as their enemy. A report in online magazine, GamesBeat News, says gaming customers are twice as likely to abandon a game when they experience network delays of up to 500 milliseconds, while a 2 second delay in load time can result in abandonment rates of up to 87 per cent.
Govender says high-speed connectivity is also important for businesses. "No one wants to wait for a sluggish webpage to load, particularly if you're out and about or in the middle of an important Zoom call.
"We want our customers to have access to the best mobile technology," he says. "That's why we were the first operator to build a 5G mobile network in December 2019, and we now offer 5G in almost 50 towns.
"While many people are moving to online communications, voice calls are still incredibly important particularly for business customers," he says.
The company has recently upped its game even further by being the first network operator to deploy Enhanced Voice Services (EVS) for Vodafone users with a capable device on 4G VoLTE and Wifi Calling services.
"This all adds up to clearer phone calls and a quicker time to connection. Our customers may notice their calls are placed almost immediately after dialling; all these small adjustments make a massive difference."
Govender says the independent certification report was conducted by umlaut, a global leader in mobile benchmarking and which is part of Irish-based professional services multinational Accenture.
"This involved mobile network testers driving 6700kms around New Zealand to put our performance to test and shows Vodafone offers mobile customers the best network in terms of overall performance, data and voice calls, outperforming both Spark and 2degrees.
"The report was further rounded off with six months of crowd-source data from smartphones which captured a 24/7 view of customer experiences across more than 97 per cent of New Zealand's populated areas," he says.
Vodafone scored 797 points out of 1000 overall for its mobile network compared to 760 points for 2degrees and 751 for Spark - and scored the highest for data performance in major cities, towns and roads.
In major cities 10 per cent of users experienced speeds greater than 385Mbps compared to 185Mbps for Spark and 99Mbps for 2degrees. Vodafone also achieved a voice quality rating of 240 out of 300 (80 per cent) compared to Spark and 2degrees who were both at 201.
Govender says the umlaut benchmarking methodology is the de-facto industry standard and is applied in more than 120 countries measuring over 200 mobile networks worldwide.
Last year Govender says Vodafone set out plans to invest heavily in its mobile network to improve coverage and capacity for better quality mobile browsing and fewer dropped calls.
"We've finished upgrades in Manawatū and Bay of Plenty; we're currently upgrading our digital infrastructure in parts of the Waikato, Taranaki and Southland, and we'll eventually work our way around all of the country."
For more information visit: www.vodafone.co.nz