When Telecom unveiled ShowMeTV—a name that was ditched shortly afterwards—it was billed as the Netflix of online television in New Zealand. And now, in a seeming effort to create the Netflix of online gaming, the telco is launching a cloud-gaming streaming service called Aircade.
"Telecom Digital Ventures, our in-house incubator, has been trialling a range of digital innovations and this is the latest area of interest that we've gotten involved with. The trial will give us insights into what the level of demand is, and what sort of services are of most interest to users, so until then it’s as much an ‘’if’ as to a ‘when’ we roll it out for commercial purposes – that’s what the trial is for," says Telecom's head of corporate comms Richard Llewellyn.
He says that Aircade trial is similar to the ongoing Digilife trial, which is currently giving a selected few the opportunity to experience living in a smart home, a phrase used to describe a house where all electrical devices are automated and controlled by a central operating system.
Given that both DigiLife and Aircade are undergoing market trials, it's still unclear when—or whether—either innovation will become accessible to the public.
Llewellyn says that all trail spaces for the cloud-gaming service have already been filled, and TDV plans to collate feedback from those who have been given a chance to try it.
Early research from TDV suggests that a minimum broadband connection of 7Mpbs is necessary for the service to work smoothly and that the on-demand gaming service expends between one and two gigabytes of data per hour.
Llewellyn admits that a high-speed internet connection is necessary for the optimal performance of the streaming service, and he says that Aircade forms a small part of Telecom's strategy to attract consumers to ultra fast broadband as Chrous continues to expand the reach fibre optic connectivity.
"The team behind the national fibre rollout gave us the insight that the services we offer will serve as key drivers for demand of ultra-fast internet."
He says that Aircade will sit alongside Telecom's other digital initiatives to give consumers incentive to switch to faster broadband connections.
Telecom subsidiary BigPipe NZ currently offers three different connection packages, ranging from a basic ADSL package with a relatively slow download speed of 1Mbps to a turbo VDSL package that the company boasts is capable of the "ludicrous" download speed of between 20 and 60Mbps.
The BigPipe social media team has also been active on tech forum Geekzone, comparing the Aircade to services such as Spotify or Netflix in the sense that it's based on a subscriber model, features an extensive online catalogue and relies on streaming rather than downloading.
Further down in the thread, in what could be interpreted as an under-handed Telecom sales pitch, the BigPipe NZ poster elaborates further on his experience playing games via the Aircade interface, saying that the service works very well on ultra-fast broadand, while results vary on VDSL and ADSL.
"The thing that really kills it though is Wi-Fi. It needs to be played over ethernet connection to work well or else you get random dropouts. Because it's gaming, you can't buffer ahead of time like you can with video, so any sort of signal degradation (such as happens with Wi-Fi a lot) causes issues," said the poster.
Although Llewellyn says that Aircade is only a small-scale innovation, it is an example of one of the many ways that Telecom is looking into new digital services that might give people more reasons to consider fibre or VDSL.