Clifton Dawson, Founder & 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.

Strategic Insight: VR and AR will push the connectivity requirements by requiring more network capacity, lower latency to the network's edge, and consistent quality of service. 5G enhanced mobile broadband shows the promise to deliver extreme throughput, ultra-low latency, and uniform experiences - taking VR/AR experiences to the next level.


Despite the cool factor, AR and VR can will challenge current cellular networks, including the most advanced 4G network. What limits will we hit first and what technologies can manage, store, cache, and deliver these experiences at high resolutions and low latencies? It has been the consensus that future network should realize the goals of thousand-fold system capacity, hundredfold energy efficiency, and tens of lower latency.

More capacity

The current bandwidth requirements for our most frequent and bandwidth intensive digital experiences, such as video messaging and conferencing, use 1-2 Mbps, according to research by ABI Research. The current generation of 360° video requires 10-50 Mbps. While our current 4G/LTE networks can delivery on this bandwidth experience, the network of tomorrow will need to provide higher throughput per user as the quality of immersive experiences improves (and as more simultaneous usage occurs) . It is expected that next generation 360° video (8K, 90+ FPS, HDR, stereoscopic) will require 50-200 Mbps. Fully immersive video experiences allowing for 6 Degree of Freedom and or Point Cloud movement, will require 200-1000 Mbps.

Low latency

VR and AR is two of the most demanding applications from a latency standpoint.  In the case of VR, the latency between the physical movement of someone’s head and updated the photons from a head mounted display reaching their eyes, also known as motion-to-photon latency, is one of the most critical factors in providing a high quality experience. This is because human sensory systems can detect very small relative delays in parts of the visual and audio fields, but when absolute delays are below approximately 20 milliseconds they are generally imperceptible.  

Being right 99 percent of the time is no good, because the occasional mis-registration is precisely the sort of thing your visual system is designed to detect, and will stick out like a sore thumb. -  Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist, Oculus VR

While issues of latency are multi-faceted, requiring solutions for display technologies (e.g. higher display refresh rates) and at the host level (e.g. CPU, GPU, and rendering optimizations), VR/AR will also require distributed access architecture with highly scalable cloud computing to address the latency requirements VR/AR will bring by essentially pushing network infrastructure closer and closer to the end user.

Uniform experience

Full immersion everywhere requires consistent throughput, even at the cell edge. According to research conducted by network researchers, to realize such aggressive 5G version, ultra-dense network (UDN) has been considered as a promising system architecture to enable consistent high-Gbps, seamless network user experiences.

5G UDN can bring a more uniform experience by increasing the median perceived throughput by a factor of 13 times, and most importantly, by increasing the perceived throughput at the cell's edge by a factor of nearly 20 times.

Image source: Qualcomm