Why Virtual Reality needs 5G networks

Update as of 8-23-16

Virtual Reality (VR) is in the news now. From Oculus to Hololens to HTC and Sony and the list goes on. Everybody is jumping into the VR mash-up from hardware manufacturing to content providers to production facilities. The new VR is to experiences what the iPhone was to communications when it first appeared. Indeed VR is a tectonic shift to multiple industries now and will create new ones in the future. What hasn't yet received wide discussion is how to deliver content to the devices or push the massive amounts of data generated.  Enter 5G networks. A yet to be defined standard that will be custom designed to carry the load.  Zuckerberg is even launching the Telecom Infra Project because he knows that the design capability to carry the load is lagging behind the equipment.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN), an association of all the major mobile telecom companies, has set the requirements for a network to be considered 5G. Some considerations are that:

  • It will have to support hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections
  • It must provide data rates in the tens of megabits per second to thousands of users and one gigabit per second for smaller groups of workers
  • It has significantly reduced latency, expand coverage, and improve spectral and signaling efficiency
  • It will need to have an extremely robust fail-over ability and be self-annealing

In the meantime, the major telecom companies are already laying the groundwork for 5G. The networks need to be built and multiple wireless companies are competing for first place. Compared to the current 4G networks, the build out for 5G will need to be more dense. That’s essential for the increased speeds and lower latency promised by 5G. Mobile telecom networks are also working on  new technologies from millimeter wave tech to MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) networks that will allow us to improve our current network.

The current 4G network will under the best conditions, top out at about 50 Mbits/Sec.  To get an effective 360 degree live streaming you need to pump out over 80 Mbits/Sec.  Hence our current technology is not capable of handling this.  We need the additional spectrum in the 500Mhz range to make this happen and right now, the government holds the spectrum.

So there a quite a lot of challenges to making VR happen seamlessly to thousands of simultaneous users.  The technology is really not a barrier, it's just how much people want it to happen.

Update 8/23/16

Well...maybe not everything is rosy.  Check out this from The Register.  Seems like the actual standard might have to wait awhile.

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