Virtual Reality Growth to Strain Data Networks

Juniper Research in the UK forecasts that data consumption from wireless virtual reality (VR) headsets (smartphone-based and standalone) will ...

Virtual Reality Growth to Strain Data Networks
Virtual Reality Growth to Strain Data Networks

Juniper Research in the UK forecasts that data consumption from wireless virtual reality (VR) headsets (smartphone-based and standalone) will grow by more than 650% over the next four years, from nearly 2,800 PB (petabytes) in 2017 to more than 21,000 PB in 2021.

The research house says data consumption will reach more than 28,000 PB when combined with traffic generated by VR headsets tethered to PCs and consoles, placing significant 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 video. The demand is expected to be driven by the need for higher image quality and frame rates, a developing challenge as VR becomes more mainstream.

In order to make VR more accessible, the Juniper report recommends bringing network operators and broadband providers into the VR standards conversation now. Juniper argues that the future data demand needs to be taken into account when considering specifications like minimum frame rate and resolution. In addition, technologies to reduce the amount of data processing, like foveated rendering, need to be rolled out and become universal.

The research also indicated that social VR is on the rise. Facebook and WeChat are currently developing VR platforms; several VR games, most notably "Star Trek: Bridge Crew," have social elements. Those platforms are designed to bring more users into the VR ecosystem by offering new social interactions.

"VR is currently seen as very isolating," said research author James Moar. "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."

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