Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) demonstrations are exciting, but the business case for service providers has not matured yet. While the hype around VR has been focused on consumer markets and entertaining tradeshow attendees, the real opportunities are likely to be found in the enterprise sector.
At every major trade show, vendors have delivered polished demonstrations of games and thrill rides to hype the benefits of VR and AR technology. The industry is studying recent market phenomena to understand, for example, what made Pokemon Go! – an AR mobile game – so successful. Service providers want to benefit from either by providing this game and its successors or by harnessing the factors that made it grow virally so rapidly.
Delivering more sophisticated VR and AP applications in the field will require substantial resources particularly in order to support immersive games, education and entertainment experiences. The full vision for the technology in the mobile realm will require 5G speed, reliability and bandwidth.
Similarly, low latency is critical for VR. It’s generally assumed that latency of 10 milliseconds or less is necessary for VR apps to stay ahead of one’s brain. Achieving that type of latency will require mobile content delivery points within 100 kilometres of a customer. These types of requirements change the nature of service delivery. They set the expectation that near-future networks will require virtualization with real-time service orchestration and dynamic networking capabilities.
AR and VR are already demonstrating early successes in enterprises markets which may provide a better long term business case for the level of service delivery sophistication VR and AR require.
Remote maintenance and service models are already in play and are designed to save enterprises substantial cost. If an expert at a supplier’s site can see and consult on whatever a customer’s on-site technician is looking at, it attacks a substantial cost component while providing an enhanced customer experience.
These types of economics extend to training, visualising complex work environments and addressing dangerous maintenance scenarios in challenging places, like oil rigs and atop wind turbines. More pragmatically, enterprises are already using AR in massive warehouses guide forklift operators on where to drive, what to fetch and when to avoid obstacles or potential accidents.
As service providers talk to their large enterprise customers about the benefits of 5G and virtualization, VR and AR applications are likely to be germane to the discussion. Profitable conversations can take place as this is an area where there is demand for new capabilities, those capabilities are sophisticated and need to meet industrial-grade standards and they present an opportunity for a new enterprise digital economy to be built on service providers’ 5G and real-time virtualized network platforms.
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