The tech industry is abuzz with the dawn of the next era of media consumption, social networking, and gaming experiences. Top companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook continue to drive a revolution in devices, cloud services, and extended reality.
For example, Apple has evolved beyond a provider of computers and mobile phones. Tim Cook recently highlighted that “the AR promise is even greater in the future,” which gives an indication that the company will look at a deeper integration of AR applications for its devices and services.
Harnessing AR/VR’s potential still comes with technical challenges though. The success of these innovative experiences is reliant on a smooth user experience, requiring resilient and agile networks that can handle the bandwidth and processing requirements. Costs must also be managed and kept accessible to remain competitive.
In the Asia Pacific region, spending on AR/VR is expected to grow rapidly at a CAGR of 47.7% and reach $28.8 billion by 2024 according to IDC. Promising as these prospects may be, there remains to be a long way ahead in ensuring their seamless implementation as organisations will need a robust and scalable network infrastructure in place.
Therefore, service providers with networks that are modern, flexible, and adaptable, play a critical role in powering these new technologies set to transform our future.
Accelerating connection, communication, and collaboration
Across the globe, AR/VR present organisations with new opportunities to enable greater possibilities for connection, communication, collaboration.
For instance, the Singapore Tourism Board is building a database of AR content to help the travel industry promote the city-state as a destination, and enhance their on-site experiences which will be key in the future of travel as consumers become more selective in their destination choices.
At a time when hybrid learning is the norm in the education sector, AR/VR provides students with immersive and interactive educational experiences whether in a physical classroom, or at home.
The simultaneous use of these large scale, bandwidth-intensive applications, combined with administrative applications, places greater strain on networks. Organisations that are unprepared for these traffic surges can experience unplanned network congestion and even outages.
Networks shape the future of work
COVID-19 has also introduced new ways of working, which will remain as the default in the short term. Companies have also leveraged AR/VR in applications to support remote collaboration.
For example, IWC Schaffhausen, a 153-year-old watch manufacturer, has developed IWC Cyberloupe 2.0, the first-ever digitalized watchmaker's magnifying glass. The internet-connected tool features a high-resolution camera that allows watchmakers to capture, record, or livestream what they are seeing. The latest iteration of the tool integrates AR and can send information instantly to watchmakers who are working on assembling movements or complications.
However, the shift to new methods of working powered by AR/VR technologies will undoubtedly present new challenges for networks. As we continue to see hybrid work-models implemented across Asia, businesses will be increasingly reliant on the network to ensure AR/VR experiences are seamless and sustainable.
Preparing networks to be future-ready
Looking ahead, networks need to be faster, closer, and smarter to become future-ready and support digital ecosystems.
The internet has long been the impetus for service providers to facilitate faster connectivity. Applications such AR/VR, IoT devices, and on-demand content are driving the need for even more bandwidth and network capacity. The move to 4G-LTE saw network speeds increase to at least 1Gbps, and already, there are demands for edge rates of 25Gbps and above to cell towers enabling. The next milestone will be driven by the rollout of 5G across countries.
Low latency – the time it takes for content to reach the end-user – will also be a key enabler for the success of next-generation applications and services, especially collaborative business applications, gaming and AR/VR.
To keep pace with rising quality demands, service providers can bring the cloud closer to users via edge networks, so that the connectivity, processing power, and storage for high-bandwidth and latency-sensitive apps can all be efficiently applied before the traffic hits areas of major congestion or delay. And thus, by bringing the cloud closer, operators improve the user experience.
As network connectivity is improved and continuously scaled out, there will also be a growing element of complexity. Intelligent software will be the tool that breaks the lock-step relationship between network capability, operational complexity and cost. Networks will become more complex due to new use cases, yet simpler and less costly to operate.
A connected world with digital experiences
The success of extended reality lies in the user experience. By re-imagining the possibilities with a network that can support next-generation digital ecosystems, we can envision a more connected world with limitless potential for digital experiences.