Why Virtual Reality Needs 5G Networks

From Oculus to HoloLens to HTC and Sony, everybody is jumping into the Virtual Reality mash-up. From hardware manufacturing to content providers to production facilities, the new VR is to experiences what the iPhone is to communications. Virtual Reality is a tectonic shift to multiple industries and will create new ones in the future. But how do we deliver content to the devices or push the massive amounts of data generated?  Enter 5G networks. This yet to be defined standard 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 5G Network Standards

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:

-Support hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections
-Provide data rates in the tens of megabits per second to thousands of users and one gigabit per second for smaller groups of workers
-Significantly reduced latency, expand coverage, and improve spectral and signaling efficiency
-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 Possible Delay

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 yet capable.  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.  Therefore, the technology isn't our barrier, it's how much people want it to happen.

Updated 8/23/2016: 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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