How 5G will change the game industry and spur innovation
Of all the technologies that are coming to affect gaming, 5G which brings much faster wireless broadband speeds to smartphones and other devices on mobile networks is one of the biggest.
But it’s also in some ways unpredictable in terms of its impact. It could introduce more cloud-based services, such as the Hatch curated game service that Sprint launched with its 5G service. It could bring more multiplayer games and subscription titles, as well as other things.
To study this topic, we convened a panel to talk about 5G and gaming at a recent webinar. Our panel included Marc Cook, solution account director at Treasure Data; Nick Thomas, vice president of commercial partnerships at Hatch; and Bryan Fries, vice president of 5G strategy at Sprint.
One of the changes that 5G will bring is more subscription services, akin to Apple Arcade launched this week on older 4G technology as well as Sprint’s Hatch service on 5G.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
Nick and Bryan, I wondered if you could tell us more about what you announced on August 27, related to 5G. What’s available now, and where is it available?
Thomas: Sure, I can talk more about the service and let Bryan cover the coverage and availability points. I mentioned this at the top of the call, but Hatch is a mobile game streaming platform. We believe game streaming and subscription services are the future, and will fundamentally disrupt gaming on the scale of what we’ve seen in music and video with services like Spotify and Netflix.
What we’re doing is bringing Hatch, which is an application that the user downloads onto their mobile device. Within that application there’s a portfolio. We have more than 150 games live at this point, with many more coming. The user is able to browse through the content, find games they think are interesting or that they want to try, hit play, and instantly start streaming the games directly from the data center to the device through the power of Sprint’s 5G network.
This is essentially, and for lack of a less cliche term, a Spotify or Netflix style service, but it’s much deeper than that, and we’ll get into some of the social features and other benefits that come into game streaming as we get deeper into this topic.
Fries: The service that they’ve developed at Hatch is tremendous. We’re so happy to be able to be the network that that service launches on here in the United States. They have it in many markets around the world. Last week was our capstone event for nine markets that we have commercially launched 5G in. We have nine markets throughout the country, covering about 2,100 square miles and 11 million people today. We’re building out each of those markets so that the coverage is going to grow exponentially in the coming months, which is exciting.
As you look at Hatch and Sprint’s partnership, a key ingredient here is the fact that Sprint’s 5G technology is unique in the respect that our spectrum that we’re using for 5G is different than anyone else in the industry. The advantage that gives us, at least in the early years of 5G, is that we’re going to be able to deliver exponential improvements in performance when it comes to speed and latency, in many more locations, a much larger geography, than anyone else in the country.
What that means experientially is that when we talk about the promise of 5G and the applications that it enables, that prior generations of technology could not, those advantages are going to be available to our customers in more places than any other carrier can offer for a while. We’re excited about the partnership and very happy to be able to bring forward something that shows the real promise of 5G for streamed gameplay.
We’ll zoom out a bit to look at gaming overall now and go to our first group question that each of you can tackle. What trends have had the most impact on gaming revenue, and how will this shift in the future? Let’s start that with Marc.
Cook: From my perspective, the thing that we’ve seen, and we’d all agree, is the free-to-play mobile game. Mobile is the biggest group of gaming that’s growing. The impact is really–there are so many free-to-play games. It’s a struggle to monetize or offer a game at an initial cost.
That’s probably the biggest trend I’ve seen, that free-to-play model. But at the same time, I think it’s bringing in more gamers to gaming, and increasing the overall gaming culture, which will of course drive more purchase or subscription services.
Thomas: I agree, I think free-to-play has been the biggest pivotal impact on gaming revenue. But I see that as part of a broader arc. I’ve been in the gaming industry for close to 20 years. I’ve spent almost all of that time in the casual game domain. You back up to the early 2000s, it was more of the PC downloadable era, with hidden object games and developers like Popcap and Playfirst who developed this market. That moved into social gaming and browser-based games powered by players like Zynga and experiences like FarmVille. Then that rolled into mobile, which was at first a premium experience, and then here we are with mobile free-to-play.
That’s a 15-year arc there. About every five years or so, there was this change in the economy or the delivery mechanism of the content. What’s interesting is how that has moved in parallel with mobile devices, at least in the mobile domain, with the power of these phones, which now rival the last generation of consoles. You have a combination of free games powered by these very powerful consoles in your pocket, essentially. That’s really shifted the industry in a massive way.
It’s also complemented by developer tools like Unity coming around. Now you have the three-legged stool, where you have a console in your pocket with free games that have become very easy to make, or at least much easier with toolkits like Unity. That’s been a massive change. It’s led to the growth Marc was talking about. It’s very exciting.
We see it as part of a longer evolution. The next step in that will be moving beyond the free-to-play world into other economies — subscription economies and other ways to discover content when there are so many games out there in this very crowded field. I think we’ll talk about that some more later. But how this will shift in the future, we think, will be in this next evolution.
If you think about subscription services, they don’t work well with in-app purchases. They’re not structurally aligned with the way those games are built. That starts to shine a light back on premium, on games that are built as full experience, the kind of games that haven’t worked well in the free-to-play world. Adventure games, or even something like a hidden object game, or strategy, or narrative experiences. Those have been very difficult in a world that’s driven by in-app purchases, where the game design is shaped around that currency and how you’re going to motivate players to pay for content or experiences within the game.
We see it as a bit of a pendulum swinging back the other way toward the premium world, where subscription makes a lot of sense and players can have access to a whole portfolio of games that are not built around in-app purchase requirements and so forth.
Fries: My thoughts on the subject–mobility, as Marc said, has been the driving force in the proliferation of gaming in recent years. You have years of solid double-digit compared to single-digit, low single-digit in the other platforms. It’s a three to five times greater rate of growth when you look at mobile compared to anywhere else.
From a carrier’s perspective, we’re able to see behavior that tells us that half, or more — I’ve seen stats as high as two-thirds — of wireless subscribers in the United States play casually at least once a month. You start thinking about the size of that market. You’re talking in the hundreds of millions of players. Without mobile, that’s a generation of players that might not have had the level of engagement to play at the console or PC level, but they’re now gaming on their devices. Nick made a great point about the power of the devices and the proliferation of mobile networks. That’s cultivated a massive market for gaming, the likes of which we haven’t seen. It’s still growing faster than any other segment.
As we look ahead, that trend definitely continues With 5G what you’ll see is that the content we’re able to deliver over mobile devices, whether it’s a handset or a tablet or even a laptop that’s connected wirelessly via a hotspot like we offer today–you can deliver richer content than you could otherwise, because of the increased bandwidth that 5G brings. You have greater capacity and better performance in terms of speeds and latency. That just gets better over time. Even in the early days, it’s remarkably better than 4G, but it will get better from here on forward. This is very exciting. It takes what’s already a very good experience and supercharges it.
The other thing is that you’ll see–I don’t think anyone’s mentioned this yet, but the dynamic of being able to play wirelessly on the go has also enabled a social experience that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Gaming has traditionally been about a lot of solo play. More and more we’re seeing that this is a social activity more than a solo activity. That’s a really exciting trend as well. It dramatically increases the engagement when you’re playing with friends. Everything’s more fun with friends. That’s another important trend in the intermediate term that will continue to be amplified by the connectivity that 5G brings.
In the longer term, the changes will be far more dramatic. As the networks become more ubiquitous, gaming categorically is transformed, both in terms of how we view content, how the content and IP are used for experiences, gaming experiences. We’ll be talking about things far different than playing games on a phone or a laptop, more like venue-centered experiences. There will be lots of excitement down the road as the networks come fully to life.
GamesBeat: To make a comment of my own, I attended the E3 show this year in Los Angeles. Ubisoft’s CEO, Yves Guillemot, made some headlines when he predicted that we would go from 2 billion or so gamers now, including all the people on mobile, to something like 5 billion people playing games in 10 years. It was an interesting prediction. We were in the hundreds of millions of players until mobile came along and exploded.
It was a bit hard to parse how we’d get so many more billions of players. That’s one thing that would help make that happen. But right now there are 7.6 billion people on earth, and in 10 years we’ll have a lot more than that. Still, it’s hard to see both the very old and very young playing games. We’ll see how that prediction goes.
For now, I’d like to dive a little bit into 5G. That’s just getting started. What are the benefits going to be for consumers? Bryan, tell us your view on that.
Fries: In the short term, we’re already seeing some models come to the market that are really centered on the promise of 5G. This is the promise of play anywhere, at any time, on any screen. This is a mechanism that helps to stoke the kind of demand that will be required to hit a number like 5 billion gamers in the future.
We’re talking about making higher-end gaming experiences more portable, or nomadic if you will. That’s important. You have companies out there that are starting to put these services into the market, at least in beta, that will relieve us of the requirement of being wired to a home and using bespoke hardware to have a great gaming experience.
Down the road, where that takes us–you get this bloom in the diversity of content. We’ve seen this happen in audio, and in video shortly thereafter, where you went from buying a package off the shelf to subscription models. The dynamic that occurs when that content changes the way it’s consumed–I like to use the analogy that when you’re sitting in a restaurant and ordering from a menu, you might get one entree, but if you’re at a buffet, you try all different things. It encourages people to try more diverse options, because there’s no risk if you don’t like it.
It’s the same way with consuming any content. People will try more things. Demand will go through the roof for the type of content we’re talking about here. That’s very exciting. The balance of it, though, is that it will be harder and harder to establish franchise titles, because the dynamics of variety and engagement pull in opposite directions. As we think about what 5G does in the longer term, publishers and content creators are going to have to consider how they manage that balance, particularly so that they don’t let the quality of their content suffer for the sake of volume to satisfy demand. If we reflect on the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve probably all logged some examples in our minds where folks may have gone one side or the other of that equation. Those, in the near and intermediate-term, are things we need to pay attention to.
Thomas: My view on this is that there are three primary ways this will show up and benefit consumers. That’s through discoverability, through social enabling, and as Bryan said, through variety of content.
The discoverability piece is important. We’re seeing this issue in services like Netflix, where there’s so much content out there. It becomes intimidating to try and find new things. You depend on your friends or other independent sources of information to figure out where you want to invest your time. That’s been even more of a challenge in gaming, particularly mobile gaming, where you can go to the app stores today, type in something like “tower defense game,” and there will be thousands of games. You can scroll and scroll endlessly. That’s a big problem for consumers. How do you decide which one you want to try? How do you pick, from all of those titles, what you want to download and go through the process of starting an experience to see whether or not you even like it?
What’s happened is that consumers have fallen back to relying on top-grossing titles or editor’s choice titles or whatever’s featured by Apple or Google on a particular day to help them find content. That’s problematic on a few levels, but for the customer, it’s problematic just because it really narrows the amount of content out there that’s available to them.
One of the benefits of 5G gaming that’s powerful is the ability to instantly try games. Within a curated catalog, which is what Hatch offers and that hopefully addresses this broader problem of a sea of options customers can just hit Play and immediately start trying the experience. If it’s not for them, they’ve wasted 30 seconds or whatever. They can move on and try something else without feeling restricted in terms of exploring freely and being able to try things that they might otherwise not have tried because of the intimidation factor, or just the inconvenience of having to wait to download and install and go through the setup process. Discoverability is a big pain point for customers.
GamesBeat: I wanted to jump in here and have you explain a bit more. With 4G gaming today you can go to the Google Play store and use the Try Now button to explore a playable ad for a game. You get started and see what it’s like. This notion of instantly trying something is available now. Are you saying that 5G does this better?
Thomas: The difference is that with the instant play–not all games have that. It doesn’t actually offer the full game. It’s a sort of preview experience, which is better than nothing. You can also watch videos and see what the gameplay looks like, the art and the general mechanics and so forth. It’s still different from being able to actually play the game. It’s more like watching a preview of a movie than being able to start it up, and if five minutes in it’s not your thing, you can jump to the next thing.
That plays more into the subscription model as well. With subscription you can freely try content. You don’t need to pay for each game, which has been a big issue for premium games. The combination of 5G and the instant playability that that offers, as well as the subscription model, allows us unrestricted access to try experience and find what you like.
The other point was social enablement. Bryan spoke to this. We think this is super key. This is actually one of the core tentpoles we’ve built our platform around, this ability to engage with your friends in the games that you play, to be able to invite them into your experiences or share your experiences with them. We even see that influencing the discoverability issue as well. Having a platform where you can recommend content to your friends, or see what your friends have played and be able to engage with them direction and discover games through what others you know are doing, to us that’s very powerful, and a very important component that’s missing from gaming today.
Hatch was built around the notion of the lonely gamer, which is this idea that we’re all immersed in technology, and we have all these ways to connect with one another, yet people feel very lonely in their gaming experiences on their mobile device. The idea of Hatch and cloud gaming in general, how that’s powered by 5G technology, really helps to address that head-on and create experiences where you can engage in real time with your friends, play with them, and share experiences with them.
The last piece is just the variety of content. Bryan was speaking to this as well. The ability to allow people to try new experiences and try games that are not within the relatively narrow vein of proven mechanics like a match-three format, for example, that happens to work well with in-app purchases. There are many other experiences out there that we think customers are hungry for. This perfect combination of streaming coupled with a subscription service allows people to both develop content that’s not narrowly within the free-to-play world, and also allow customers to find things that aren’t also within that limited sphere right now.
Cook: I’ll take that just from the perspective of a consumer, because Nick and Bryan answered the question very well when it comes to the benefits. When it comes to games, the tighter the latency, the more accurate the gameplay. 5G is going to take that to the next level. Any kind of latency complaints are going to disappear. You’re going to have some very fun realtime action games come about. I’m excited to see that. It’s another side benefit. Games that require low latency are just going to get more accurate, and gamers will appreciate that.
GamesBeat: I’m curious how 5G is going to fit with some other gaming technologies. We’ve mentioned cloud gaming as well. Does anyone want to tackle that question?
Fries: I’m happy to take a crack at it. I like this question a lot. This is fun to think about. What we’ve been discussing to this point is really about how the content we’re already familiar with, from a gaming standpoint, is going to be consumed. Moving from a retail package environment to a subscription-based portfolio service and all the benefits that come with that.
The next stage is how the content gets redefined and used in ways that we’re not using it today. New content altogether. Early proof points are out there already. We’ve seen some really cool augmented reality examples, where AR is paired with gaming experiences. That’s worked pretty well. It’s definitely captured the imaginations of a lot of people, albeit in an imperfect network experience. On 4G networks it works well, but with 5G, when you have massive amounts of increased capacity and improved latency, the responsiveness of the interaction is realtime. There’s so much more potential there.
That’s where we start to think about gaming technology in a different light. It’s not the platforms we’re used to. Those platforms may be used in an entirely different way. AR is a great step forward there. Then, if you think a little bit further, virtual reality–for those of you who’ve had a quality VR experience, it’s super impressive, but there are still encumbrances, including the form factor of the devices and the video quality available. If you want good video quality, you still need wires and a PC.
5G offers the promise to alleviate those things. Being able to process data in the cloud instead of on the headset alleviates the form factor requirements. These things can become more comfortable for long periods of wearing them. You can detach yourself from wires once you’re able to do ultra-high-definition streaming into each eye over a wireless network, instead of requiring wires. Then you start thinking about how to translate IP, publisher IP, into an entirely new gaming experience using VR. That will be huge, once the technology becomes embedded into those types of devices and the form factors change.
Finally, if you think even bigger, I’ve had engagements with a number of amazing companies that are building experiential venues, entire venues that will immerse consumers in an environment that provides an experience that they’ve never conceived of before. Whether that’s for sports fans, being able to participate on a field in a virtual experience where you’re running drills with your favorite team, or a venue that’s tailored to combining physical architecture, theater, and virtualized elements to transport the participants to exotic locations they might not be able to visit on their own, or locations that don’t even exist in reality.
There are venues of this nature being created as we speak that are built around wireless connectivity and 5G connectivity to enable the virtual elements, but now you’re talking about incorporating content and IP in entirely different ways. In the long term, the intersection of these technologies is really exciting.
Thomas: Based on our launch event–we had a really exciting event in Los Angeles where we launched the Hatch and Sprint partnership. Part of that was focused on the mobile service we’re launching, but the other piece I found really interesting was this live PC game experience, where there were four high-powered PCs with gamers who were playing Fortnite. That was all powered by this HTC Blink Box, which is essentially a 5G modem. These were not wired experiences, but they were traditional console/PC game experiences that were effectively powered by the same mobile network that our mobile service operates on.
To me that was really interesting, because it brings this opportunity to effectively replace the in-home wired connection for general utility, and also for gaming experiences, through the same benefits that 5G provides. Conceptually that wasn’t really very difficult to grasp, but to actually see it, to see a super-high-quality Fortnite experience powered by these 5G modems, to me that brought it home. Somewhere, 5G technology has massive immediate value for gamers. Then, of course, you can bring that to mobile as well. It can cover the whole gaming market, which I thought was very interesting, and something that’s very valuable today.
Cook: 5G is going to generate more data, and we’re going to be happy to help our customers collect and analyze that as part of their overall understanding of their games and their consumers. Just like 4G and other cases where more touch-and-tap session data began coming in, 5G will add even more.
Another component is that the amount of data that can be pulled out of a game will increase, because of the increased bandwidth, and ultimately be drawn into data platforms for analysis. That’s the biggest impact I see relative to what Treasure Data is up to.
GamesBeat: Our audience polls says the winner so far is 5G that will be a game-changer for games, with 46% saying that. No. 2 is AI at 23%. AR changing how we interact with users is at 15%, and demographics changing who and how we develop at 15% as well. Our 5G folks should be happy about that.
A natural question for game developers and other industry folk–if we have these big changes like 5G coming, what should they be doing to take advantage of all of this? Nick, why don’t you start that one?
Thomas: The most important thing to do is to have an open mind to this new reality that is at our doorstep and to get engaged. This will be an evolution. Nothing changes overnight. It’s going to take time for these new platforms and technologies to proliferate, or for customers to find them and for the models to grow. If you accept the premise that 5G is a game-changer, then this is a pivotal moment. That’s the most important first step.
The second step from there is to get involved. Come and talk to providers like Hatch and learn more about the platform. Learn how it works, what’s involved, how you participate, what the revenue opportunity looks like. How can you begin to experiment and engage in a way where you can gather firsthand information and data on what’s working, what’s not, what games are successful, what games are seeing the best results and so forth? That can then inform your strategy and thinking moving forward as you consider your business and where you want to place your bets, invest your time and resources, in order to see the best return on those investments.
To me it’s really just about engagement, accepting that this is coming and that it’s going to be great for everyone. Start to learn about it and how to participate in the opportunities.
Cook: With the increased data volume and capacity to move that data that 5G will offer, to get ahead of that from an analytics standpoint and shift toward the strongest analytics systems that you can possibly have and afford. Systems that can handle all the telemetry, touch and tap, session data from mobile games and bring that into a place to combine that with an understanding of the customer from transactions, from marketing, and from social, combining that with the game data into one platform to have true 360.
Most of the gaming companies that we talk to, even some of the biggest in the world, have silos. They don’t have a complete view of the customer. With 5G it’s easy to get data moved around into a system where you can have that greater understanding and continue to iterate on your game. Personalization is the big thing now. You can drive a custom experience across the game, but also, offline and how you’re touching the customer in every other way, you can personalize everything in what you’re doing. 5G is a part of that story.
Fries: There are probably two key ingredients to this. One, I would say, is imagination, and the second is collaboration. Imagination–it’s always hard to imagine something that doesn’t exist yet, but I think Marc did a good job of articulating something that publishers need to start imagining. How, with the massive increase in the amount of data available about our customers and their behaviors–how can we use that to get more familiar with them in ways that will be value-added? More seamless interactions, less irrelevant engagements, and more relevant engagements? The opportunity to gain a much higher degree of intimacy is tremendous.
On the other side of this, for content creation, we need to break down legacy ideas about what content is, how we’ve defined it to this point, and how it can be used for customer entertainment going forward. For a while we’ll continue with the content we’re familiar with, just consuming it in different ways. But as I talked about before, how that content evolves is a tremendous opportunity. That’s how we can get that more intimate familiarity with our customers and their preferences.
That’s about imagination. Collaboration, coming from a carrier standpoint, we run networks, right? To this point in our history, the carriers have been able to control their own destiny to a large extent with each new generation of network technology. Each one is a little better and faster than the last, but we’re still using phones in our pockets. Wireless is about wireless handsets. They’ve become more full-featured, but we’ve made them better, faster, more capable of accessing the internet.
5G is going to be different, because 5G is going to change the way the world looks at wireless carriers. Today we’re viewed as, “Who do I buy my handset from?” Tomorrow, wireless connectivity is not going to be about handsets. It’s going to be about everything other than handsets in a 5G world.
Connectivity, the type we’re talking about — call it mobile fiber, if you will — is going to be an ingredient in a lot of customer-facing solutions in the gaming industry, products and value propositions. For the first time, the carriers are going to be having to reach out into the industry, and hopefully the outreach is reciprocal. The publishers in the industry should be reaching out as well to engage with the network operators to understand what they’re capable of, how they can use 5G in their business model. Folks like Mark as well–there could be trifectas of parties that come together to bring something to life that didn’t exist before. I don’t think anybody of us are able to bring these experiences and products and services to market on our own. The collaboration is going to be truly key.
To really make the point, that’s what we showed last week working with Super League Gaming, who hosted our launch event in L.A., and the Hatch team that brought their platform that we ran a bunch of gameplay on, and Sprint that brought the network that powered the whole tournament that we held. It’s a great example of how, in this new world, it’ll really take a village to bring the experiences to life.
GamesBeat: Shifting to some questions from the audience, our first one asks where and when AR comes into play? I think Apple’s rumored entry is going to be one of the things it takes to make AR into a much bigger phenomenon for gaming. It’s probably not going to happen this time, but who knows? Does anybody else want to take a crack at that?
Fries: I’ve commented about it briefly before. We have some great proof points out there about how AR can be very addictive and well-received. As the technology comes to life that enables the experience in richer ways greater capacity, better latency those experiences will only get better, and that’s going to stoke demand. I see big things ahead of us in the category.
GamesBeat: For Nick, and possibly for Bryan, Hatch sounds a bit like Google’s Stadia, their cloud gaming service that they announced for launch coming in November. Apple Arcade is [here] as a subscription service. How does Hatch differ from these other services that are coming to market later? Also, more for Bryan, why did Sprint choose Hatch over some of these other things?
Thomas: Hatch is the perfect–we see it as the perfect balance between those two. Apple is focused on the subscription model and on a mobile-first approach. The games are made for mobile. They play well with a touch input. They’re very focused on premium content. Those are all things that we believe in as well. Stadia, of course, is bringing a streaming component to that. But Stadia is very focused on this PC and console replacement initiative. You can play games through a browser, but if you want to have that experience on your mobile device, you have to carry around a controller with you, which we don’t think anyone really wants to do.
For us it’s a nice blend of both of those two offerings. You have all premium content and the subscription model, but it’s enabled in a streaming environment that’s built for mobility. That’s the other very unique component of Hatch. This is something you can take out into the world with you. You don’t need to be at home on a fixed, wired connection. It’s a mobile-first product. I think we fall right in between those two, and we’re doing it our own way.
The other differentiator is the focus on the social features, and how we’re really making social a core part of the platform. This exists on the platform level. This isn’t a matter of games that have social features. These are features within the hatch platform itself, where you can connect with players, share your gameplay, invite others to join you and play games together, all powered by the technology that we’ve built. That’s how we’re unique.
Fries: Nick did a good job of articulating why Hatch is different, and those are the reasons that we established the partnership with them. For us as a career, mobile games are the bread and butter for gaming right now. 5G is enabling that experience in a way that’s unique, just in terms of the portfolio subscription model, which is super cool.
We want to ensure that anything we put out into the market from a use case standpoint is really ready for prime time. We think that because Hatch focuses on games that are made for mobile originally–that was very attractive. As well, you’re attacking the casual gaming segment. Like I mentioned earlier, half or more of all the people with wireless devices in this country play casually at least once a month. The market for us is very large. It’s easily accessible to us, because of the nature of our business.
I’ve spent a lot of time with the Hatch team to get to know them and their product. We have a tremendous amount of confidence that this team has the right ideas about where to go with casual gaming. They’re very focused on quality. For anyone that’s seen Hatch in action, the UI is absolutely beautiful. It’s really functions well. It’s a tremendous experience.
Over time there will be products that come and will be great for the more avid gamers, the folks who want to take a console and PC experience and move it around to other panes of glass, if you will. That’s not so far away. There are still a few kinks in the delivery model that will have to be worked out for that to proliferate. For example, some of these games are super-high-action games requiring complex maneuvers that don’t lend themselves well to play except if you have an accessory on the device, like a controller. Maybe that becomes the standard, but initially, for us, the breadth of the casual segment and the ease of use and accessibility to players was where we wanted to go first, to ensure that it was an exceptional experience for everyone.
We’re asking folks to take a leap of faith, to game in a different way than they have before. We want to make sure that when they take that leap with us, they’re really happy that they did.
Quickly, Bryan, 5G is touching just a fraction of the U.S. population today. When are we expecting 5G to become more widespread, so more people can enjoy the benefits of 5G gaming?
Fries: Once you’ve experienced, you’re going to want it where you’re at, I promise that. Right now, like I said, we cover about 11 million people, as of September. We cover a lot. That’s not a small number. But it’s not 320 million. We have a long way to go before it’s ubiquitous.
Over the next six to nine months we’re going to see tremendous leaps in the population that we’re able to cover. The nine markets that we’ve launched, the footprint in those markets is getting bigger every day. Our folks are out there building as fast as they can. I think you’ll see exponential growth in that coverage here by the first quarter of next year. That’s exciting in itself.
To really get this network technology to the state that we’re accustomed to with 4G–we’ve got merger on the table. I imagine everyone here is familiar with that. This is expensive to do. You’re building a network on top of a network. These things are tens of billions of dollars in costs. The timing on how fast it gets to every nook and cranny in the country really depends on what the path forward is for Sprint as a company. If we’re a stand-alone company I think it’s a much harder road for us, but if we’re able to combine with T-Mobile, as we’ve proposed and are awaiting approval on, I think it can happen a lot faster. It’s the next couple of years, instead of some indefinite period down the road. For us, getting this merger done is really important.