There is no slowing down our insatiable demand for video services. Video streaming services in particular, such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, are rapidly becoming our preferred choice of viewing and are already on a par with regular TV according to Deloitte. Binge video is the new trend where the once a week series are replaced by continuous hours of entertainment. And with high resolution smartphones and tablets, together with Wi-Fi and 4G, we can engross ourselves in our favorite video content wherever we like.
But here is the problem.
According to a recent mobility report from Bell Labs Consulting, a division of Nokia Bell Labs (News - Alert), 79% of wireless data demand in 2020 will be from video and audio streaming services. That will result in a 19% gap in the wireless network’s ability to cope with it (Wi-Fi and mobile) based on current trajectories. And this was the conservative view assuming the majority of video streaming will be HD and SD quality consuming an average of 6Mbps and 2Mbps respectively.
We cannot ignore the incredible momentum building up around more immersive video experiences. HD video is giving way to 4K resolution in TVs and new smartphones. That's 8 million pixels taking us a step closer to the human eye’s full fidelity. Content is limited today but it's coming, and will need around 15-20Mbps on your access connection for streaming. That's more bandwidth than most people have available today.
But that pales into insignificance to the truly immersive experience.
Real immersion comes with Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) which may include 360 degree video so you can see and explore from all angles. Our Nokia (News - Alert) Technologies’ group recently launched the market’s first professional, film studio quality, 360 degree VR camera called OZO. The group is currently working with Disney to provide equipment and VR technologies to support the creation of special VR content for a range of Disney (News - Alert) films that will let you immerse yourself and interact with the content through a VR Head Mounted Display (HMD). Facebook launched 360 degree video streaming on its news feed in September 2015 and YouTube (News - Alert) expanded its 360 degree video service with live streaming of events only last month. Both of these can be experienced in VR with an appropriate HMD. From films, to gaming, to travel and discovery experiences, VR and AR content are springing up at a rapid rate.
If we look at what that means for the network, low resolution 360 degree video (which is what most HMDs today can only cope with) will require at least 25Mbps for streaming. With a resolution that is comparable to a HD TV experience, this becomes 80-100Mbps. But if you want the top experience with high resolution “retinal” 360 degree video (as you would get watching a 4k TV) it will set you back 600Mbps. There are technologies being developed that can reduce these streaming rates such as state of the art compression technology and Field of View (FoV) based streaming. However, the more advanced ones - that could lead to 10X reductions - will need very low latency in the network and cannot be supported in our networks’ of today.
We also need to consider the impact of these immersive video experiences in vertical markets, providing substantial human benefits. VR can transform training and education. Only last month, a UK hospital was the first to live stream a live operation in VR to 13,000 students. The purchasing of products (from houses, to cars to e-commerce) will be revolutionized as customers visualize and explore potential purchases without having to be there, saving valuable time. In industry, remote immersive collaboration will speed up productivity and reduce travel as geographic locations become irrelevant.
With these trends in mind, Bell Labs Consulting also predicted a more disruptive forecast in their mobility report with the above services having a greater impact on wireless networks by 2020. Based on this more aggressive view, the gap in wireless networks meeting the demand increases to 24%.
So it's not just the demand for video streaming that will break the network. It's also the rapid shift to more immersive content with technologies that are market ready with significant investment from many big and small players in the industry.
It's the perfect storm that will drive a new era of networking enabling us to access everything with the bandwidth and latency needed to run the application or service optimally. Not only do we need significantly higher broadband access speeds, but a whole new architecture and design that is programmable with highly distributed edge clouds to cope with massive capacity and low latency together with agility to react instantly to changing application needs. 5G and edge cloud will be the critical technology enablers but new business models will be equally important in an increasingly digital world.
Download the report to learn more about how new applications are impacting mobile networks and operator strategies to deal with the explosion in video streaming.
About the Author
Sue White leads the marketing of new innovations from Bell Labs, the research division of Nokia which is chartered with producing disruptive innovations that drive technological revolutions for the next phase of human existence. Previously, White led marketing activities for IMS/VoLTE, CloudBand NFV management and orchestration software as well as broadband access and IPTV (News - Alert) solutions. She also provided service providers with technology strategy planning and consultation for next generation broadband access networks.
Edited by Peter Bernstein