The transition of mainstream media consumption to mobile is upon us, and a transition to media consumption through virtual reality is on the horizon, according to industry insiders and analysts. On the go virtual reality and augmented reality solutions are already a go on the hardware and software side of things, but online VR gaming, streaming VR media, and imposing AR overlays over a user's surroundings in real time are all things that current networks aren't entirely up to par for. T-Mobile US is currently billed as the current front runner for LTE speeds in the US, for example, but their current network technology maxes out at 400 megabits per second. Even their upcoming blending of two key network advancements won't be quite enough to blow through the gigabit barrier, according to their chief technology officer. VR experiences delivered over a network would require many times the resources of current media. This means that we probably won't have VR-ready networks until 5G goes mainstream around 2020.
Huawei is looking to fix that, and have shown off a technology that may be able to effectively confront that issue. At the recent VR & AR Network World 2016 conference in London, an event sponsored by Huawei, tons of the biggest names in the industry, such as Ericsson, HTC, and Nokia, gathered to share in the latest advances toward VR-ready networks, and ways to optimize VR content to fit even on current networks. Since most decent VR rigs have a total output resolution roughly equivalent to and even above a 4K display these days, those tasks are far from easy. Huawei's way of rising to that challenge was to demo an in-house network technology, the first in the industry, that is specifically catered to VR usage.
Huawei's press release on the matter did not go into specifics, suffice it to say that attendees of the conference were quite interested in what they had to offer. For a network to deliver a viable VR experience, both speed and stability must be top-notch; the tendency of most wireless networks to jitter or experience huge speed variations at random could turn a streaming VR experience into a VR sickness-inducing nightmare, depending on the size of the buffer, the hardware, and how the experience is programmed to deal with network latency issues. Huawei has been a key partner with many carriers in getting 5G tests off the ground, but the press release labels their handiwork under the tag of 4.5G, with very little information given about the technology behind it or how good of an experience it delivered to attendees willing to give it a whirl. With the hefty requirements for a good network-based VR experience, it's likely safe to say that Huawei's homebrewed network solution prototype was able to blow current LTE solutions out of the water. Only time will tell if the system will see mass adoption and deployment.