Wireless VR to strain data networks

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017.

Juniper Research analysts forecast that wireless VR headsets (smartphone-based and standalone) data consumption will increase by over 650% over the next 4 years, from nearly 2,800PB (Petabytes) in 2017 to over 21,000PB in 2021. Moreover, when combined with traffic generated by VR headsets tethered to PCs and consoles, data consumption is expected to reach over 28,000PB, placing additional strain on both wired and wireless networks.

“VR requires fast data speeds to stream content effectively and, by 2021, the data demand of each VR device is expected to exceed that of 4K,” Juniper analysts stated in an August 2017 press release.

“This will be driven by the need for higher image quality and frame rates, a developing problem as VR becomes more mainstream.”

According to Juniper analyst James Moar, author of “Virtual Reality Markets: Hardware, Content & Accessories 2017-2022,” social VR is also on the rise, with Facebook and WeChat developing VR platforms and several VR games such as Star Trek: Bridge Crew.

“VR is currently seen as very isolating,” Moar explained. “The promise of having new worlds to explore is much more compelling when other people can share the experience, which needs social games and social interfaces, as well as the development of cross-platform standards.”

In related news, Sam Rosen, Managing Director and VP at ABI Research, recently observed that 360-degree content has already been tested in major genres including sports (such as BT’s distribution of the Champion’s League), music (Deutsche Telekom’s Magenta Musik service), and news (New York Times VR). In addition, Netflix launched its first interactive content with children’s programs Puss in Boots and Buddy Thunderstruck.

“Immersive content promises to marry Hollywood style content, tapping into the production elements of video games,” said Rosen. “New technologies exist to conduct fully spatial and/or light field mapping of spaces, as well as to generate holographic models of actors. Combining these techniques with artist-generated layers and interactive storytelling elements, such as speech synthesis, opens the door to using gaming technologies to deliver immersive entertainment to large audiences.”

Rosen also noted that 360-degree video faces a variety of filming and distribution challenges, including stitching, algorithms and workflows that vary widely between live and file-based scenarios. Delivering the full panorama to the user, says the analyst, requires about 4-5 times the displayed resolution, depending on the field of view of the headset.  However, attempting to deliver only the required video requires low latency (delivery) – which places artificial limitations on head movement (in degrees per minute) or results in extreme pixilation of images.

“The 360-degree video market presents a struggle for content creators – on the one hand the new technology enables them to tell stories in a more impactful and immersive way, but it also requires new expertise, workflows and hardware,” he added.

According to Qualcomm, VR and AR are poised to be ideal applications for upcoming 5th generation (5G) mobile networks, as both will benefit from enhanced mobile broadband with its higher capacity, more uniform experience with consistently high data rates and lower latency.

“The AR and VR industry is thirsty for the capabilities 5G promises. It is a profound change in the way cellular networks have traditionally been developed: if you build it (the network), they will come (applications and users),” Qualcomm explained in a blog post earlier this year. “While we expect 5G to enable many new and unforeseen use cases, the enhanced capabilities of 5G are required for AR and VR to reach their full potential.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Rambus Press, the move from 4G to 5G is driving new architectures such as C-RAN, which further pushes SerDes requirements to communicate between remote radio head (RRH) and baseband unit (BBU) from 12G to as high as 48G. From a broader perspective, our increasingly connected world is prompting the semiconductor industry to implement and implement and innovate new architectures in the data center. These include DDR4 and DDR5 buffer chips, second-generation high bandwidth memory (HBM2) and hybrid DIMM technologies such as NVDIMM-P and NVDIMM-N.