Immersive computing technologies, such as VR and AR, will push the connectivity requirements by needing more network capacity, lower latency to the network's edge, and consistent quality of service. Stakeholders in the telecommunications industry face the daunting challenge of providing cost-effective mobile broadband services in today's less than ideal operating conditions.

This is why Nokia, Alphabet's Access Group and Qualcomm Technologies collaboration in February 2017 to create a full 360° "in car" experience in real-time during a stock car race was such an impressive feat. The demonstration called the Richard Petty Driving Experience showed the capabilities of LTE-based Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) to stream virtual reality video over a Private LTE network using 3.5 GHz CBRS radio spectrum.

Livestreamed Driving VR Experience Shows Need For VR-Ready Networks

While the visual fidelity of the Richard Petty Driving Experience was striking, what's more impressive is the wireless networking architecture required to deliver the end-user experience. Specifically, Nokia, Alphabet and Qualcomm needed to create a network that was customized to provide a high uplink data rate on the race track and a high downlink data rate in the spectator area; very low latency between car and network; and seamless mobility. Such a set up allows the continuous streaming of real-time 4K 360° virtual reality video between the spectators and the cars - in this demonstration driving in excess of 180 mph. The in-car connectivity was enabled by a Qualcomm Snapdragon LTE modem.

CBRS May Be Key To Future VR-Ready Networks

Several companies ranging from the Big 4 carriers to service provider equipment vendors Ericsson and Nokia to enterprise equipment companies like Cisco and Ruckus to chipmakers like Intel and Qualcomm have brought about Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) as an industry solution. CBRS allows the deployment of services in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz band, previously available only to US federal users. CBRS enables LTE to deliver cost-effective mobile broadband in shared frequencies without the need to purchase licensed spectrum, yet without the interference issues of unlicensed spectrum. CBRS allows enterprises, cable operators, and large industrial users to build their own private LTE and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, while operators can use CBRS to offer high capacity LTE services, Dedicated LTE, and support smart cities.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has started handing out licenses for vendors to conduct CBRS trials, and we expect CBRS network rollouts by the second half of 2017.

Clifton Dawson, CEO of Greenlight Insights, is an analyst who covers digital disruption and how today’s company are transforming their business models to deliver next-gen experiences through virtual and augmented reality technology. Follow him: @AskClifton.