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Nvidia partners with SoftBank, LG for 5G gaming

NVIDIA Corp. is looking to make cloud gaming over 5G wireless networks a trend by partnering with carriers worldwide to deliver the service.

The first two partners for Nvidia's GeForce Now Alliance are SoftBank Group Corp. in Japan and LG U+ in South Korea. Nvidia will provide the infrastructure, including servers and networking equipment, to the carriers, who will charge customers for the 5G gaming service.

"They would have multiple data centers with GeForce Now servers, and we would host and maintain the service for everybody," said Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, during a keynote at the company's GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California, on March 18.

Exact dates for the launch of Nvidia's GeForce Now, a cloud-based gaming service, over 5G networks were not provided immediately. More partnerships with 5G providers will be announced in the future, Huang said.

5G smartphones and devices were announced at the recent Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Mobile phone makers and chip makers like Qualcomm Inc. and Intel Corp. have stated cloud gaming could potentially gain traction as a 5G application.

The number of gamers are growing, and Nvidia wants its GeForce Now streaming service to expand globally via 5G carriers, Huang said.

Nvidia's GeForce Now has been in beta for about six years, with about 300,000 testers, and about 1 million users on the waiting list to join the service, the CEO said during the keynote. GeForce Now allows users to play the games they already own via the cloud. The service has 500 game titles and is provided via 15 data centers in the U.S. and Western Europe.

Gaming is one way that Nvidia will expand in data centers. The company's graphics processors are already widely used in data centers for machine learning in scientific computing and autonomous cars.

The cloud gaming infrastructure provided by Nvidia to 5G providers will involve RTX servers, which include the company's GPU for graphics rendering. The infrastructure could also include connectors from Mellanox Technologies Ltd., Huang said. Nvidia said it would buy Mellanox in a US$6.9 billion deal announced on March 11.

Nvidia is also working with HTC Corp. on its 5G Hub, which will help in the delivery of high-quality games to connected devices, through the cloud service.