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5G makes mobile XR experiences possible anywhere

5G makes mobile XR experiences possible anywhere

Immersive technologies

5G and XR technologies enable new mobile and immersive experiences for both consumers and professional users. This combination opens a broad range of business opportunities for CSPs in collaboration with the wider XR ecosystem.

What is XR?

Extended Reality (XR) is an umbrella term that covers immersive technologies ranging from virtual reality (VR) to mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR). In VR, users are completely immersed in a simulated digital environment or a digital replica of reality. MR includes all variants where virtual and real environments are mixed. AR is one such variant where digital information is overlaid on images of reality viewed through a device. The level of augmentation can vary from a simple information display to the addition of virtual objects and even complete augmentation of the real world. MR can also include variants where real objects are included in the virtual world.

XR could be the next paradigm shift after the smartphone. Jessica Östergaard, Head of Architecture & Technology, Ericsson, explains why this transformative shift is urgent.

XR could be the next paradigm shift after the smartphone. Jessica Östergaard, Head of Architecture & Technology, explains why it is urgent for this transformative shift to happen.

The role of 5G in elevating XR experiences

From local usage with processing in the headset or companion device to wide-area usage with processing in edge cloud over 5G networks

From local usage with processing in the headset or companion device to wide-area usage with processing in edge cloud over 5G networks.

5G coverage enables wide-area and mobility-dependent XR applications such as AR gaming. At the same time, 5G has the capacity to handle multiple users in one place—such as a classroom or manufacturing site—running applications with high-bandwidth demands simultaneously.

To evolve XR devices from bulky head-mounted displays (HMDs) to lightweight, fashionable glasses, computationally heavy functions need to be offloaded to edge computing infrastructure or cloud servers. Running heavy compute functions in the cloud reduces HMD complexity and enables more immersive experiences with higher resolution, quality, and frame rates, supporting multi-user experiences in dynamic environments. To achieve this, both 5G networks and cloud servers need to deliver a high quality of experience.

XR requirements on the 5G network

For simple AR applications, such as digital overlays that help with street directions, current networks are sufficient. However, as XR applications become more advanced, connectivity requirements will become more stringent. Communications service providers (CSPs) need enhanced network capabilities to deliver low latency, high reliability, and high data rates essential for sustaining user quality of experience (QoE) in XR applications, while simultaneously offloading computation from the device to an edge or cloud server. Low latency and high reliability: XR applications require low latency and high reliability to ensure a seamless user experience. Network capabilities must support stringent latency requirements, including both radio access network (RAN) and core latency, to enable real-time interactions and rendering, especially for dynamic environments and interactions. High data rates: XR applications generate a significant amount of additional traffic, especially when remote rendering and offloading spatial computation are involved. Remote rendering requires high downlink data rates, while spatial compute requires high uplink data rates. Networks must have the capacity to handle the increased data rates to maintain user QoE.

XR requirements on the network will be elastic in both downlink and uplink bitrates, as well as in latency, and can vary based on application complexity, resolution, and user preferences. An AR device with compute offload could consume 12 times more network resources than a smartphone in 2030. This corresponds to double the network capacity requirements already for 10-15 percent AR penetration.

*AR uptake enabled by mobile networks

How CSPs can capture the XR opportunity now

CSPs are already equipped with the technology needed to deliver basic immersive experiences and start monetizing them. CSPs do not have to wait for lightweight and stylish XR glasses. For consumers, reselling XR devices and accessories, bundling subscriptions with exciting XR services, and promoting data plan upgrades is a great starting point to position themselves in the value chain. For businesses, XR services will likely be most successful when bundled with connectivity and other Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

To claim their role in the value chain, CSPs need to: engage actively in the XR ecosystem, to offer exciting XR services innovate business models beyond average revenue per user (ARPU), and prepare for future network requirements.

Customer & 5G XR use cases

The benefits of XR for consumers and enterprises

Many smartphone users have already experienced basic forms of AR by using the camera filters in apps like Snapchat and playing games like Pokémon Go. AR technology becomes much more powerful, however, when used with specialized devices such as AR glasses. These glasses free up our hands and allow us to see digital information right before our eyes, layered over the real world.

In workplaces, AR glasses are already being used for remote assistance, workflow instructions, or training purposes, dramatically increasing worker efficiency. In education, VR transports students to immersive environments that make learning more engaging, helping them understand and remember better. AR is transforming spectator experiences at live events by enabling interactive engagement with the venue and other attendees, as well as delivering personalized, real-time data overlays.

Featured insights

Augmented tomorrow: AR experiences beyond smartphones and AR filters

Ericsson ConsumerLab conducted extensive research across 10 global markets with current and prospective extended reality (XR) users, revealing four pivotal insights shaping consumer expectations for augmented reality (AR) experiences over the next five years.

AR uptake enabled by mobile networks

Video, messaging and multimedia services currently dominate mobile broadband network traffic, with most of this coming from video streaming. However, as augmented reality (AR) traffic grows, questions about network coverage, capacity and performance will need to be addressed.

Spotlight on extended reality

There is increasing consensus in our industry that XR could be the next paradigm shift after the smartphone. Since the network requirements of advanced XR use cases differ significantly from those of mobile broadband, there is every reason to believe that this shift will have a transformative impact on the communication industry. Ericsson is working closely with leading players around the world to shape the market and ensure that 3GPP technology is relevant in the XR ecosystem.

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