5G for Extended Reality.

Elisabeth Balistreri
Jan 4, 2023

5G will play a key role in providing both the bandwidth and latency required for emerging technologies--like machine learning, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and extended reality--to operate efficiently within the internet of things ecosystem.

How will 5G impact AR, MR & VR?

The impending fourth industrial revolution will transform global business as we know it. Emerging technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and extended reality will all need significant bandwidth to operate efficiently within the internet of things (IoT) ecosystem, making dense 5G coverage essential to providing the speed needed for our new, digital first world. 

For now, most extended reality (AR, VR, MR) headsets operate on Wi-Fi or via tethering to a PC or mobile device. The sheer amount of graphical rendering needed to operate XR devices place significant demands on latency and bandwidth that couldn’t currently be solved without a tether or strong a Wi-Fi connection; as we look towards the future of mixed reality--consumer-facing glasses for everyday wear--we know the success of these glasses will be completely dependent on the successful implementation of 5G infrastructure.

Virtual and augmented reality will require more advanced connectivity, including higher capacity, lower cost, and increased throughput per user as the quality of immersion improves and more people use the technology simultaneously. Low latency is crucial for reducing buffering and lag in interactive content, such as the tactile internet and 6 degrees of freedom (6 DoF) experiences. To achieve a truly immersive experience everywhere, it is necessary to have consistent throughput, even at the cell edge.

Fortunately, Verizon and other carriers are developing the 5G networks that will power the fourth wave of computing. Verizon’s Intelligent Edge Network will enable emerging technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and extended reality to operate efficiently. The network will provide sufficient GPU processing capabilities that will allow these devices to work in conjunction within the internet of things ecosystem.

The initial consumer glasses that come before the full implementation of 5G will likely be tethered to your phone--probably wirelessly, as a physical tether would be a significant barrier to sales. Consumers facing mixed reality glasses will need 5G capabilities to operate in the physical world in real time. 

For now, we will continue to see more enterprise grade mixed reality headsets in 2021/22 as the race to stay relevant in the Industry 4.0 era commences. The next frontier to be conquered will involve the consumer market. Microsoft has already claimed a significant share of the enterprise market with their Hololens 2, but Apple appears to be targeting the consumer market with Apple Glass. The question remains, when?