The network is already under strain from our insatiable appetite for video streaming and there is no slowing down. According to a recent mobility report from Bell Labs Consulting, a division of Nokia Bell Labs, 79% of wireless data demand in 2020 will be from video and audio streaming services. That could result in a 19% gap in the wireless network’s ability to cope with it (Wi-Fi and mobile) based on current trajectories. And this is the conservative view assuming the majority of video streaming will be HD and SD quality.
But when you add Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) into the mix, then you’re heading towards the perfect network storm. These immersive technologies can include 360 degree video so you can see and explore from all angles. A low resolution 360 degree experience -- what most VR Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) can accommodate -- requires at least 25Mbps for streaming. It becomes 80-100Mbps for a resolution comparable to HD TV. But if you want the best “retinal” 360 degree video experience (as you would get watching a 4k TV), this will require an incredible 600Mbps.
So the key question is how fast are VR/AR being adopted?
From a technology perspective, there is a huge investment in HMDs, VR/AR platforms and 360 degree cameras from many companies including Facebook, Google and Nokia, reflecting the optimism industry leaders have in this emerging technology. Nokia Technologies launched the market’s first professional, film studio quality, 360 degree VR camera called OZO. Facebook is one of the leading developers of VR headsets with it’s purchase of Oculus and recently unveiled it’s open source 360 degree camera. And Google, in addition to its popular low cost cardboard headset, just announced its new mobile operating system for VR.
That means new content and services and coming. Facebook launched 360 degree video/VR streaming on its news feed in September 2015. Meanwhile, YouTube expanded its 360 degree video/VR service with live streaming in May 2016. Disney is working with Nokia Technologies to provide equipment to support the creation of special VR content for a range of immersive Disney films. From films, to gaming, to travel and discovery experiences, VR and AR content are springing up at a rapid rate.
But the potential for VR/AR outside the consumer market is even greater. Recently a UK hospital was the first to live stream a live operation in VR to 13,000 students. In industry, remote immersive collaboration will speed up productivity and reduce travel as geographic locations become irrelevant. The purchasing of products (from houses, to cars to e-commerce) will be revolutionized as customers visualize and explore potential purchases without having to be there, saving valuable time.
With these trends in mind, Bell Labs Consulting also predicted a more disruptive forecast in their mobility report with the above services having a greater impact on wireless networks by 2020. Based on this more aggressive view, the potential gap in wireless networks meeting the demand increases to a worrying 24%.
So it's not just the demand for video streaming that will break the network. It's also the rapid shift to more immersive content with technologies that are market ready with significant investment from many big and small players in the industry.
It's the perfect storm that will drive a new era of networking enabling us to access everything with the bandwidth and latency needed to run the application or service optimally. Not only do we need significantly higher broadband access speeds, but a whole new architecture and design that is programmable with highly distributed edge clouds to cope with massive capacity and low latency together with agility to react instantly to changing application needs. 5G and edge cloud will be the critical technology enablers but new business models will be equally important in an increasingly digital world.
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Learn more about the Nokia OZO professional virtual reality camera, software, and more.
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