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VR and AR Require 5G for Mass Adoption, But Who Will Provide It?

"The usefulness of AR and VR going forward is heavily dependent on three primary network components: high capacity, low latency and a uniform experience."

For the continued development, deployment, and eventual wider adoption of next-generation video technologies—in this case, virtual reality and augmented reality—it’s clear that 5G is a necessity. 

But the concept of nationalizing a 5G network to support these kinds of applications, where significant development is already underway by carriers including Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, is potentially harmful to current competitive 5G development (in many ways, mirroring the independent innovation associated with VR and AR applications). 

“Mobile network operators are increasingly interested in acquiring media assets, which enables provisioning of new services and act as potentially new revenue streams,” the IEEE explains. “The requirements for novel media content formats and means of efficiently delivering them using 5G networks are currently being investigated.

“The concept of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) over wireless networks has generated an unprecedented interest from academia and industry. The success of an immersive VR experience hinges on solving a plethora of grand theoretical and practical challenges cutting across multiple disciplines, and industries.” To read more, click here.

Download the IEEE 5G Roadmap

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Anshel Sag says, “Realistically, most of the 5G we’re going to see [this year] in relation to AR and VR is going to continue to be more of the same. We’re going to see more demos of live streaming content over Gigabit LTE or 5G to a VR headset located somewhere else. Because 5G is still so nascent and the 5G NR global specification was only ratified at the end of 2017, we probably shouldn’t expect to see any real 5G networks until 2019.”

Read more: What to Expect in Wireless for AR and VR in 2018

“Both AR and VR applications can be very sensitive to network performance, as any associated hiccup can penalize the overall user experience,” Qualcomm and ABI Research’s report “Augmented and Virtual Reality: the First Wave of 5G Killer Apps” states.

“Offering much more capacity, lower latency and a more uniform experience, 5G will not only improve, but will also be a requirement for some of the most exciting AR and VR use cases,” the report continues. 

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Read more: VR and AR Pushing Connectivity Limits

Watch the webinar: VR and AR are Pushing Connectivity Limits—What Role Will 5G Play?

“The usefulness of AR and VR going forward is heavily dependent on three primary network components: high capacity, low latency and a uniform experience. Some applications rely on one component more than another, but supporting all three simultaneously is critical to enabling all AR and VR use cases under the same network.” 

Download the report: Augmented and Virtual Reality: the First Wave of 5G Killer Apps

Download: Merged Reality: Understanding How Virtual and Augmented Realities Could Transform Everyday Reality

“The complex worlds and sophisticated input mechanisms of VR and AR experiences require a lot of data to be processed,” says Jon Mundy. “This is fine for local applications, but if you want to feed in data remotely it can place a strain on a network. That’s particularly so if the user is on the move or away from a fixed internet connection.

“This is where 5G’s significantly faster speeds and lower latency will come to the fore. ABI Research anticipates that 5G will bring about ‘a 10x improvement in throughout, a 10x decrease in latency, a 100x improvement in traffic capacity, and a 100x improvement in network efficiency’ over 4G.”

Read more: How Will 5G Boost VR and AR?

What will push 5G development?  “Ericsson says mobile video will be one of the primary uses for faster 5G connections, but interestingly adds that virtual reality and augmented reality technology will push networks and infrastructure firms like Ericsson and Nokia to get 5G connections up and running quickly,” says Andy Boxall. “It expects VR and AR to shift away from gaming and entertainment use, to become helpful and widely used by more people. Fast, reliable, low latency data connections will be imperative.”

Tim Merel cites the revenue potential for virtual reality—specifically mobile virtual reality—as he explains, “Mobile VR will be the growth market in terms of VR’s installed base…. The question for mobile VR today is that the experience does not match console/PC VR, but that will continue to change in coming years. As smartphone manufacturers face slow growth and squeezed margins, core roadmaps are now focused on beefing up mobile VR quality as a source of growth.”

Read more: Why Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality are the Fourth Wave of Tech

Download: Virtual Reality in 5G Networks

Read more: Axios: Trump Team Considers Nationalizing 5G

Read more: 5G to Reach a Billion People by 2023, With VR and AR Firing Up Development

Read more: 5G VR: A Canary in the Telecom Coal Mine?