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Broadband Providers: What are the Implications of Virtual Reality?

Broadband service providers take note, personal virtual reality (VR) platforms are going to reshape the industry sooner than you think.

We’ve seen a constant stream of VR-related news coming from major industry tradeshows, online broadband publications, and even broadband CEO blog posts. I’ll try to generalize their comments succinctly: personal VR platforms are expected to bring massive sales, huge increases in bandwidth consumption, and dramatic shifts in subscriber quality expectations. This is an exciting time for broadband service providers, but it’s essential to consider what implications VR will have on your organization.

Here are some key questions to answer if you want to stay ahead of the VR trends:

Which Access Network Delivers the Bandwidth Required for VR?

Bandwidth usage is about to go way, way up. Major League Baseball has recently teamed up with Intel to announce a new project, where they will deliver one live-streamed game per week in virtual reality. This represents a new age for sports enthusiasts, who will be able to tune in from the comfort of their homes to watch live, 360 degree footage of a baseball game as if they were in the stadium. The bandwidth required to not only deliver this footage, but to maintain high quality throughout, will be unprecedented. Forbes Magazine recently broke down what gigabits per second it would take to generate a digital experience at the full fidelity of human perception, predicting that humans can process an equivalent of nearly 5.2Gbps of sound and light—more than 200x what the FCC predicted to be the future requirement for broadband networks (25 Mbps).

Operators who want to stay ahead of the curve have to make important decisions about what access network will best fit their subscribers’ needs. Fiber, DOCSIS 3.1 (Full Duplex DOCSIS 3.1), and converged approaches all have their benefits.

How Much Network and Subscriber Visibility is Required to Optimize Services?

The simple answer: A lot.

Providers looking to satisfy the needs of their subscribers as next-generation content delivery platforms like VR enter the mainstream need a holistic view of the network, but they also need holistic vision beyond the network edge into the subscriber premises. This can be achieved with a combination of TR-069 standards and Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR) data, which allows operators to monitor the access network as well as customer edge equipment. By gaining a picture of the entire services network (including beyond the last mile), you can ensure service quality issues are minimized while also proactively resolving network and customer equipment issues, many times before the subscriber is even affected. This also leads to better network intelligence, meaning faster issue resolution when subscribers have to phone the customer call center.

Increasing visibility over the usage habits of your subscribers also enables you to make better predictions when planning for future capacity requirements. As an added bonus, you will open up new avenues to optimize and personalize the user experience like never before, which brings me to the last question.

Will Traditional Service Models Still Meet Subscriber Needs?

Service usage habits are changing more rapidly than ever, and customer preferences are becoming more unique. The era of simple tiered service plans is reaching an impasse. Broadband providers must look for ways to implement strategic service plans that can deliver the right services at high quality to the subscribers that need them, while ensuring subscribers who require less bandwidth aren’t affected with network congestion and buffering. Diversity among service plans is essential. Early adopters of VR must have the bandwidth available that they need to stream live events in high quality, or play videogames without being interrupted. Traditional cable and Internet subscribers, on the other hand, don’t want to get penalized in the process.

With usage-based service plans and accurate analytics platforms, operators can turn this concept into a reality. Trending subscriber habits with this level of accuracy also uncovers new monetization opportunities. Subscribers utilizing large amounts of bandwidth during specific periods of time—for instance, during a weekly live streamed baseball game—could be targets for value-added services such as temporary speed-boosts or even increased bandwidth allotments. By charging subscribers for these services, operators open up new ways to increase sales on their existing customer base. The insights gained from accurate analytics are extremely valuable to Sales and Marketing departments, but the key to these monetary benefits is transparency, or making sure subscribers are aware of their current usage during a billing period.

Developments in VR have already caused quite a bit of change in the broadband industry—and more is coming. Future-cognizant organizations are taking steps to prepare. Will you be ready?

By Stephane Bourque, Founder, CEO and President at Incognito Software Systems

Incognito Software Systems is a global provider of broadband device provisioning, IP address management, bandwidth monitoring, and service activation solutions.

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Use to work at a high end Charles Christopher  –  Aug 10, 2017 2:38 PM

Use to work at a high end driving simulation company.

The implications of “Virtual Reality”, especially over the internet, is “simulator adaptation syndrome”.

Bandwidth is not the issue, latency is the primary issue.

When we interact with the world our brains are patterned with an expectation of when (and what, but thats a different discussion) things should occur. VR systems naturally introduce delays into that “feedback loop”. The brain’s expectations are not met, resulting in eye strain, headache, postural instability, sweating, disorientation, vertigo, pallor, nausea, and vomiting. The greater the delay, the more likely these results.

This is why pilots are not allowed to fly aircraft for 1 week after completing regular simulation training. This is the “adaptation” component. After their training their expectation of a real plane is that of the behavior of the simulator, making flying a real plane very dangerous. It takes a week to completely “wash out” that “lie” so that the brains expectation returns to that of the real plane.

I have spent many hours in driving simulators that I participated in the design of. And many hours of tuning demonstrations for customers. Leaving the simulator and then getting into my car to drive home after a day of work the feeling is simply not possible to describe. I can only sum it up as being one of the most dangerous people on the road at that time. Not because of any intent on my part, but because the car and my interactions with it were so “off” that my control of the car was greatly compromised.

This will also happen with VR over the internet. People’s experiences in VR will become their *EXPECTATIONS* of the real world, resulting in countless accidents and eventual lawsuits. After extended time in VR, simply walking up and down stairs can become problematic until washout occurs.

Delays of just a few milliseconds, between command and response, are enough to have an effect. In general, its the image generators where the delay mostly presents itself as its task is the most demanding. Its been about 20 years since I have been in the industry. Back then I had experienced multi million dollar image generators. The rendering algorithms take 3 complete “video frames” (has to do with database reading and conversion of data [sorting algorithms] useful for forming the image) to render a command, and that is an “internet free” system.

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