Article by: ABI Research
Approximately 30% of total augmented reality shipments and 23% of virtual reality shipments will include cellular connectivity by 2027.
An exciting and rapidly evolving Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) market is looming on the horizon and will bring new types of content and new usage scenarios. To support this, networks and connectivity technologies are expanding into pure bandwidth capabilities and Mixed Reality (XR) compatible capabilities like latency, network forwarding, and slicing. According to ABI Research, 30% of total augmented reality shipments and 23% of virtual reality shipments will include cellular connectivity by 2027.
“Much has been said about 5G being a pillar of AR and VR success, and while that’s true in a vacuum, other variables make the truth more complex,” says Eric Abbruzzese, Director of research at ABI Research. “5G absolutely plays a key role in augmented reality and virtual reality, but it depends on the time and the use cases. Today, most use cases do not require the latency and speed improvements. the bandwidth that come with 5G, however, push connectivity needs to accommodate more users in more places, consuming more types of content over time.
While AR and VR have been around for a while, neither side has reached the mass market. This is partly due to a lack of content, interest and choice of devices. Both are changing over the next few years: Apple, Google and Meta are all investing heavily in both sides of the immersive market – and have been for some time – with this investment notably affecting the new HMD market. Qualcomm is also invested in and market leader in XR device chipsets – their dominance in the smartphone space for SoCs, including networking components, overlaps the XR space significantly thanks to similar components inside. XR headsets as well as HMDs connected to smartphones.
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Cellular networks are playing an increasingly important role as this market reaches critical mass thanks to this momentum. While most XR connectivity is handled over Wi-Fi today, it lacks the flexibility of mobile use and connectivity outside of expected network environments. Edge Computing and Streaming is the next step for XR Computing, but with the expectation that networks can handle the coverage, latency, and reliability required.
On the network side, a handful of telcos have already worked on specific augmented and virtual reality support for content and devices. SK Telecom goes so far as to build a global metaverse platform, extending beyond the telco’s own network coverage. Nokia and Ericsson have been supporters of XR for years and are now a big part of the 5G-Advanced version coming in 2024.
“The technologies that will propel connectivity and challenge existing networks are not yet mature or widespread enough to have a noticeable impact today. However, these technologies will evolve alongside the rest of the connectivity stack, touching augmented reality and virtual reality and becoming more capable and widespread. The role of 5G and wider connectivity becomes less fundamental for AR/VR and more synergistic: one benefits the other and they progress alongside each other, but not only because of the other concludes Abbruzzese.
These results are taken from ABI Research’s AR/VR Connectivity app analytics report. This report is part of the company’s Augmented and Virtual Reality research service, which includes research, data and ABI Insights. Based on in-depth primary interviews, application analytics reports present an in-depth analysis of market trends and key drivers for a specific application, which could focus on a particular market or geography.
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