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Why 5G is Important for the Future of VR

The arrival of super-fast mobile technology is nearly here

Virtual Reality and 5G Network - Illustrated Man

We love VR. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the technology burst onto the scene with headsets such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

The immersive worlds they’ve created have given us many hours of joy, exploration, and excitement. Other headsets have joined the ranks, and we’ve seen plenty of interesting innovations in AR too.

But the enthusiasm we have for virtual reality hasn’t always been matched by the technology. It hasn’t had the mainstream adoption we all hoped for. Yet. 5G could change all that in the near future.

What is 5G?

…we can expect 5G to deliver, a ‘10X improvement throughout, a 10X decrease in latency, a 100X improvement in traffic capacity, and a 100X improvement in network efficiency.‘

5G Logo
The official 5G logo

5G refers to the fifth generation of mobile networks. Currently, many countries have adopted 4G as the standard for high-speed mobile data, allowing us to browse the web, stream media, and make video calls almost effortlessly. The next generation, 5G, will bring improvements to all of these areas.

According to a whitepaper commissioned by tech giants Qualcomm, we can expect 5G to deliver, a ‘10X improvement throughout, a 10X decrease in latency, a 100X improvement in traffic capacity, and a 100X improvement in network efficiency.‘

The impressive progress and capabilities that 5G presents will make it easier for us to be connected, allowing us to transfer and stream higher-quality media faster and more efficiently. For VR and AR, this could be a real game-changer.

Why is 5G Important for VR?

Many of us rely on our smartphone or similar devices for news and entertainment. Games such as Pokémon Go proved that AR can be extremely popular, even when relying on a 4G connection.

Other companies have made progress with apps and immersive experiences, such as 360-degree photos and videos. However, to keep that momentum going, we need higher quality environments and larger files. 5G brings the ability to stream both.

With the next generation of mobile data networks, HD-quality videos can download in seconds rather than minutes. This increased speed also means there is less latency, the delay between input and action.

Augmented and virtual reality…will ultimately benefit from 5G’s super-fast speeds and ultra-low latency — Ed Chan

As a result, VR and AR content can be streamed and enjoyed seamlessly by many people. Although current broadband speeds give such an experience to home users tethered to a PC, 5G will expand the possibilities of standalone headsets in a variety of settings. As the Chief Technology Architect for Verizon, Ed Chan, puts it, ‘Augmented and virtual reality…will ultimately benefit from 5G’s super-fast speeds and ultra-low latency.’

In the future, we can hope to see things like live streaming of sports and entertainment events in VR, 6DoF video, more interactive video calls, and effortless streaming of other AR and VR content and games.

When Will 5G Arrive?

Excitingly, 5G is already being tested by a number of mobile networks. We’re hopeful that the first wave of 5G capable smartphones will arrive early in 2019.

Despite this promising progress, whether we see the major networks rolling out 5G in 2019 remains to be seen. It will likely be a while before every network provider uses the technology as standard.

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