Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. To put this in perspective, think about one of those Seagate external hard drives that can store a terabyte. Now imagine a hundred thousand stacked on top of one other.
Given that each hard drive is fifteen millimetres high, a hundred thousand stacked would create a tower that’s fifteen kilometres high. That’s almost twice the height of Mt. Everest.
Now imagine twenty-five of those 2x Mt. Everest rows in a line.
That’s the amount of data we create daily.
Over the next few years, there will be a sudden acceleration in the amount of devices that will come online. Pair this with the increased acceptance of VR and AR into our daily lives, and it’s easy to wonder whether our infrastructure will be able to handle the increased amount of data we’ll need.
The CTO of Arris, a US telcom equipment manufacturing company, said that a 720p VR stream in 4K resolution requires at least a 50 Mbps connection. The global average 4G speed today is around 16.3 Mbps. So already, the latest in VR and AR technology far exceed the speed of 4G that most people have.
And that’s only for a 720p stream. Imagine the data requirements for a 6 DoF VR experience in 4K with a high refresh rate. And let’s not forget that any noticeable form of latency (anything over 20 ms, but for HTV Vive even anything over 12 ms) can break the illusion of presence, and can lead to motion sickness and nausea.
Houston, do we have a problem?
Not necessarily. There is hope.
The Road Towards 5G
Amajor milestone on the way to our next G (praise the Holy Grail) is the move from what’s currently the fastest available mobile connection, 4G LTE, to Gigabit LTE. Although it’s somewhat of a broad concept, with many carriers giving their own spin to it, Gigabit LTE will provide theoretical download speeds in excess of 1 Gbps.
Although there’s a difference between the theoretical speed and the speed we’ll actually have on our phone, Gigabit LTE will be a significant speed improvement that should be able to handle most people’s requirements.
And it’s built mostly on the infrastructure of our existing LTE and Wifi bands. So there’s nothing drastic that needs to happen. We can just scale it up nicely from what we already have.
Gigabit LTE relies mostly on three underlying technologies:
- Carrier Aggregation: instead of being provided with a single LTE connection, phone towers will connect with your phone using multiple LTE connections at the same time. Carrier aggregation will significantly boost the capacity of the network. This means higher download/upload speeds.
- 4×4 MIMO: MIMO stands for multiple-input multiple-output. 4×4 MIMO means a base station will transmit 4 different signals via 4 transmit antennas to your smartphone, which will also need 4 uncorrelated antennas. This will lead to a better signal-to-noise ratio and a capacity gain for the network, which again results in faster speeds.
- LTE-U: Originally proposed by Qualcomm, LTE-U stands for LTE in the unlicensed spectrum. It will allow network operators to offload some of their traffic by accessing the 5 GHz frequency band. This could be particularly useful when the network is overloaded, for example during a concert or at New Year’s Eve.
How Will 5G be Different?
Although the first 5G networks are likely to rely on existing LTE infrastructure, the biggest difference of 5G compared to 4G and Gigabit LTE is the opening up of new frequency bands for mobile data to flow through. More specifically, I’m talking about millimeter waves (mmWaves), which are frequencies above 6 GHz.
Although these high frequencies come with their own challenges, because they’re fragile (your hand can block the signal) and don’t carry very far, the speeds that 5G can deliver are exponentially better than what we currently have.
Compared with 4G, 5G will reduce latency tenfold. It will deliver a hundred-fold improvement in traffic capacity and network efficiency. Downloading movies can be done in seconds instead of minutes.
5G will allow many more devices to be connected without a dip in connectivity speed. For example, it will allow self-driving cars to no longer have to rely on sensors and cameras for crash-avoidance, but to be connected wirelessly and react to external circumstances in a way that will be seemingly instantaneous.
What Does this Mean for VR/AR?
With 5G, people will be able to experience VR and AR in remote locations while still enjoying a seamless experience. Engineers will be able to use their smart goggles to fix a burst pipeline in the middle of nowhere.
Full 6DoF experiences will be possible anywhere, regardless of how crowded the area is.
And it will allow for a continuous experience in high-mobility situations, such as a moving car or when you’re running.
Additionally, mobile latency will no longer be an issue with VR, as it will drop to around 1 ms.
Although we’re not quite there yet, we’re close. With multiple 5G-enabled smartphones set to be released in 2019, and with mobile network carriers slowly introducing 5G plans, 2019 seems set to be the year of 5G.
It paves the way for VR and AR to become omnipresent.
OneBonsai is a VR/AR emerging solutions provider to enterprises. We focus on building solutions that improve health and safety, lower costs and increase sales. Our solutions are custom-made and built together in close cooperation with our clients.
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