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Slow Broadband ISP Speeds Delay Sonys Cloud-based Online Gaming Service

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 (1:47 pm) - Score 848

Entertainment giant Sony (SCEE) has confirmed that its Gaikai video streaming technology, which will allow gamers to remotely play PS3 and PS4 (PlayStation) games by using their existing broadband connection (i.e. without first having to download anything), won’t arrive in the UK and Europe until later due to concerns over the quality of internet access.

Sony gobbled up Gaikai for around £244 Million ($380M) last year and originally envisaged it being launched in early 2014 alongside their new PlayStation 4 console, which would make it easier for consumers to trial new PS4 games and also offer some degree of backwards compatibility for those whom already owned PS3 games (it will eventually come to the PS3 and Vita too).

However, while Sony still expects Gaikai to reach North America in 2014, the firm is now considerably less able to offer any kind of timescale for the intended European launch.

Jim Ryan, SCEE President and CEO, told EDGE:

So the plan is to begin with North America next year and the plan is to provide a streaming service that will allow for PS3 content initially to be streamed to firstly PS4 then PS Vita and then PS3.

And so that will happen in 2014 in North America initially. Now, and I touched upon these issues of broadband in Europe during the presentation – Europe is of course on the roadmap for that service to be deployed at some point in the future, but for reasons outside of our control we don’t yet have a timeline for it.

We’ve got a roadmap, there’s just a few bumps along the road that need to be ironed out.”

Apparently those “bumps along the road” are a reference to the allegedly patchy quality of broadband around Europe and Sony appears to be suggesting that the infrastructure in some countries simply isn’t up to the job. In fairness this is somewhat of an unusual position given the similarly patchy quality of broadband across the various North American states.

Likewise why should countries, such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and many others where most people do now have access to good broadband connectivity, be left excluded from the service just because some other states and rural areas might not be able to benefit.

Lest we not forget that BT managed to have some success by bundling the rival OnLive service alongside its broadband packages between late 2011 and the middle of 2012. Unfortunately this was only a time-limited promotion and many consumers lost interest once the temporary usage exclusions were lifted. OnLive then narrowly avoided bankruptcy and since then the service hasn’t really made any new headway (here).

Meanwhile Sony has already selected cable operator Virgin Media to be its partner ISP for PS4’s launch in the United Kingdom (here). Related customers are being promised “loads of exciting benefits“, which could include special service bundles and possibly even the launch of a new 200Mbps package that’s been talked about for the past few years.

At the time of writing more than 70% of the United Kingdom should be able to receive a superfast broadband (25Mbps+) connection and this is expected to reach approximately 88% by December 2015 and possibly 95% come 2017. So come on Sony.. at least give us a better excuse. It might help if we knew what Gaikai’s Internet speed requirements were going to be, although from trials last year we do know that it worked fine on a 15Mbps ADSL2+ link.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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13 Responses
  1. Avatar Roberto says:

    A Couple of points
    “In fairness this is somewhat of an unusual position given the similarly patchy quality of broadband across the various North American states.”

    That is not true or rather it depends what part of ‘North America’ we are referring to. All but the most remote regions in Canada the type of places you see on TV Shows like Ice road truckers where less than few hundred people live (Ill assume that is what they mean by North America as Americans still insist on calling Canada North America) can receive Rogers cable which is capable of far higher speeds than what we have here. Their top HOME broadband runs at 250Mb down 250Mb up. And is available to around 70%. The next package down is 150Mb down and 10Mb up and is available to almost all of Canada.

    Also
    “Lest we not forget that BT managed to have some success by bundling the rival OnLive service alongside its broadband packages between late 2011 and the middle of 2012.”

    The products are not the same and are delivered slightly differently.
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-face-off-gaikai-vs-onlive as a brief explanation.
    The minimum connection speed to run Gaikai is said to be around 6Mb and at that speed detail and resolution is scaled down to an almost blurry mess compared to what the original game would be, to run the content at 1080P and 60fps with all detail turned on (something i do not think Onlive can do even now can it?) will require a significantly faster connection.

    Gaikai is also said to have other features coming like multiple streaming (IE stream more than a single game at a time, great for a house with more than a single console or console plus a PC gamer) and also TV/film/movie type streaming offerings, probably something like some independent tech/gaming TV like channel to start.

    “At the time of writing more than 70% of the United Kingdom should be able to receive a superfast broadband (25Mbps+) connection and this is expected to reach approximately 88% by December 2015 and possibly 95% come 2017.”

    Are you sure that is right? That sounds more like availability figures for FTTC/Cable or a combination there of, rather than who can actually get/has available an OVER 25Mb connection. FTTC does not guarantee a 25Mb connection and im pretty sure even a few Virgin customers are still stuck on 20Mb packages as their max available (though that may have changed by now).

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The 70%+ is of course the sort of figure given by Ofcom and Point Topic in terms of where superfast broadband is found, defined by both as having speeds of 30Mbps+. As ever that’s a predicted performance so reality will always differ but right now most FTTC/P/Cable deployments have been focused in urban environments and thus distance issues haven’t been as much of a problem. The BDUK rollout is another matter, especially for FTTC, but that’s only just started.

      Certainly Gaikai will require a much faster connection than 6Mbps for the best quality but during early trials it worked pretty well with a fairly high HD quality on a 15Mbps link as I said (1080); it didn’t use all of that 15Mbps either. Couldn’t complain from the samples we saw and the latest compression codecs can do wonders with video quality on slower connections, provided the console has a good enough CPU.. which it does.

      As for North America, you say “that is not true” and then actually go on to validate the point :). We didn’t say how fast and who.. we just said it’s patchy. Indeed out of millions of speedtest.net tests I note that the UK’s average download speed is 22Mbps+ but the USA is 19Mbps and Canada about 18.5Mbps. Naturally those tests are skewed but it’s a fact that capacity and networks are still patchy, 100% superfast hasn’t quite happened yet.. there will always be winners and losers.

      Our point is that the situation is not so bad in the UK as to warrant Sony’s decision to delay Gaikai for everybody for the entire EU on that basis.

    2. Avatar Roberto says:

      “The 70%+ is of course the sort of figure given by Ofcom and Point Topic in terms of where superfast broadband is found, defined by both as having speeds of 30Mbps+. As ever that’s a predicted performance so reality will always differ but right now most FTTC/P/Cable deployments have been focused in urban environments and thus distance issues haven’t been as much of a problem.”

      Not sure i would agree as posts on other forums including the likes of Plusnets, BTs, TBB often have posts from people struggling to get 30+Mb which those figures are based upon. Combine that with every point topic report being quoted here as “anecdotal” speed and ofcom testing AFAIK only testing a few thousand lines and the 70% figure looks like a guess at best. I would agree the combined figure that can get FTTC/P or a Virgin product is 70% just not sure that equates to them all being able to get 30+Mb. I highly doubt it.

      “As for North America, you say “that is not true” and then actually go on to validate the point 🙂 .”

      I would say i went on to “clarify” my point rather than validate it. Clarification would not be needed if the report mentioned what is meant by “North America”. I guess sony were not that clear though.

      “we just said it’s patchy. Indeed out of millions of speedtest.net tests I note that the UK’s average download speed is 22Mbps+ but the USA is 19Mbps and Canada about 18.5Mbps.”

      What tests by ookla say and what is actually available service wise is two different things entirely. What is actually available in “North America” is better than what we have in general here…
      http://www.rogers.com/web/link/hispeedBrowseFlowDefaultPlans
      Products there are thus more equiped to deal with bandwidth intensive activities.

      Either way it is an interesting read, and certainly hints of possible benefits Sony will offer PS4 users that are also Virgin users.

    3. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I’d disregard individual reports on forums as those are too sparse and difficult to present as a reflection of national performance. Related issues can also be caused by a variety of factors that reflect the complexity of broadband technology in general and might not always be issues of raw line speed.

      I’d agree that North America might have generally better infrastructure, although it’s something we’d have to examine in a lot more depth first. But as I say the point was that not everybody gets the best speeds, it’s always patchy but plenty of people in the UK can still access superfast connections.. enough that Sony’s Gaikai reasoning isn’t IMO strong enough by itself to exclude us and other countries on that basis alone.

      I’d love to see the product as it would also be something that could encourage more adoption of superfast services.

    4. Avatar Roberto says:

      I would agree various issues can cause low speed, the point was more even if someone can get FTTC/P or even cable does not mean they can get 30+Mb line problems or not. 70% may have access, agree again, does that access mean all 70% get some of the speeds that are bounded around though? Absolutely not.

      Id also agree there are plenty of people in the UK that can get speeds high enough for this product (setting the 70% debate aside even if it were say 40 or 50% that is still as you say plenty of people), what i would not agree with though is that we are equal or better than other areas that have the product available. There reason about speeds may indeed also be valid, see my next reply to DanielM about that.

      Finally i also agree despite all this it would be nice to see the product available.

    5. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      Rogers don’t cover most of Canada? They cover a good part of the GTA, Newfoundland and New Brunswick? Cogeco and Videotron in Montreal, Cogeco from Burloak down the GTA corridor to Niagara, Shaw in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and parts of Ontario.

      More concerning is that all the major Canadian cable companies have hard caps with per GB overages when these are exceeded bar Shaw and Rogers where an extra monthly charge applies for unlimited. In some cases these caps are as derisory as 250GB down and 100GB up on a 200/30 service.

    6. Avatar Roberto says:

      Sorry i meant coverage as in the same methodology BT use that being population coverage rather than land mass and using that methodology it does cover most of Canada, far fewer live in the North Territories.

      Cap argument is pointless, most FTTC providers here have monthly caps also.

  2. Avatar Phil says:

    U don’t need more than 16 Meg for that service! Sony is talked loads of rubbish!

    1. Avatar Phil says:

      Even for virgin media 200Meg (what the point for?)

    2. Avatar DanielM says:

      maybe in hd you might need more for basic modes i agree 16Mbps is fine

      But even Onlive on HD it uses 12 Mbps

    3. Avatar Roberto says:

      Yep and that 16Mb figure you mention Daniel is where half the problem is. Most in this country still have ADSL/2/2+ and typically at best that delivers around that 16Mb you mention (ok it can go faster but its the minority that get up or in the 20Mb range).

      If we take BTs 5-6 Million customers only something like 1-2 Million have FTTC or better (The percent userbase of FTTC or better via other providers will likely be even smaller). So that is 4 million still with ADSL/2/2+.

      Or in other words most users in this country are on a broadband product which would not be enough to game on a service that plans to offer streaming of more than a single game at a time along with other media/video type services.

      This also as i suggested in a prior news item is probably one of the reasons why Sony picked Virgin as their partner. It makes sense as percentage wise on their platform CURRENTLY there are a lot more that actually have a product which is 30Mb (aka superfast) or higher than the current FTTC userbase.

      Of course that will change when the FTTC/P rollout is finished but as i also said Sony are more worried about the here and now. Rather than 3-5 years time when the console will be half way through its life.

  3. Avatar dragoneast says:

    I appreciate that everyone focuses on those people who can’t get the above 20/30Mbps speeds, but the other relevant factor is those people who could get it but choose not to (as far as I’m aware it has until now been the vast majority of those to whom it is available, actually as well as theoretically). Services like this might just persuade a few more of them to see the point. I know I get like a broken down record but I think the lack of content is as important as the infrastructure limitations, as roll out (not just the grant-aided rurals) is funded by the take ups.

    I know for instance in my locality in affluent south-east England take up is still around 10% after 2 years, and I’m one of the longest from the cab and still receive over 30Mbps speed, (though struggle with up to 10Mbps on the uploads).

    Mind you if our economic future depends on publicly-funded gaming activity . . . I suppose we might be in a worse state than I thought.

  4. Avatar Mark says:

    Japanese console makers have been shafting European customers scince the early Nintendo days its like they don’t value European customers as much America and the Far East. It also seems strange why they would partner themselves with virgin who on paper have the fastest cable connections in the uk and would be able to take advantage of sonys gaikai service and not to release it to people who are either already on virgin or who might be tempted to sighn up to them when the get a ps4.

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