Shashwat Pradhan Shashwat Pradhan

Huawei Ultra-Broadband: The infrastructure for Cloud VR, Smart Homes and 4K HDR

Along with 5G networks being tested for mass scale deployment, there have been some major breakthroughs in fixed line internet networks through fiber optics and microwaves. This evolution of broadband networks has been lead by the need of applications of different vertical industries rather than simply focusing on increasing bandwidth for consumers. Low latency and high bandwidth is going to be the backbone infrastructure for cloud VR, smart homes and higher TV resolutions. As we saw at UBB Forum 2017, in developed countries carriers are focussing on getting higher bandwidth for applications like 4K HDR video streaming. On the other hand, developing countries are looking to grow the reach of their broadband systems to remote areas so everyone can have access to internet connectivity.

Cloud VR

Virtual Reality is finally gaining some momentum around consumers. Movie production studios like 20th century Fox Films and other gaming studios are starting to produce some major content for VR environments. Currently there are some big issues that need to be solved to make VR accessible to the masses.

1 The user experience to access VR needs to be made friendlier than connecting it to a PC

2 The need for high-end PCs with top of the line requirements is making VR unaffordable

Cloud VR seems promising to solve these problems. Here, the VR content is rendered in the cloud and directly streamed to the user’s headset. The user wouldn’t need to connect multiple cables to the headset and also wouldn’t be dependent on a PC terminal. Currently, with proper specifications, a dedicated VR capable PC would cost the user around $1500 which is over the budget for most households. Especially, with mobile first internet users based in developing countries who don’t even need a PC. This would also allow the end consumer to access dynamic content as a subscription service. This model is working out great for all types of cloud services. Huawei iLab announced the VR OpenLab at UBB Forum to conduct research & development focussed around Cloud VR collaborating with other industry leaders.

Smart Homes

Digital Homes can be the base for multiple smart home services like security systems, assisted living, smart energy management systems, smart appliances and entertainment. With fixed or mobile broadband as a base that connects all these services to the cloud, our smartphone connected to the cloud can be the interface to all our smart home services.

Security systems are already being connected to apps. So are appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, dryers and ovens. The key to all these integrations would be service providers having flexibility in access of data and APIs to these smart home modules. On the other hand operators will need to provide high bandwidth networks for applications like iPTV. Infrastructure is the first step in the development of smart homes. The broadband networks need to be secure, fast and reliable to make the smart home vision a reality. The idea of a smart home can be further scaled to smart cities based on similar infrastructure.

4K HDR Video

With video’s estimated consumption going up to 80% of the internet bandwidth in 2019 and the resolutions like 4K HDR becoming accessible, operators will have to work on fibre optic based broadband infrastructure. The main contributors for this mass video consumption is streaming gaming services and 4K HDR sport event streaming. The next Winter Olympics & FIFA World Cup are going to be accessible in this new high-resolution at places like sport bars. Operators are preparing their infrastructure networks for these applications.

Being under-connected

One of the important themes at the conference was how developing countries are striving to get people connected to the internet. In most cases, it is not cost-effective to stretch the current broadband infrastructure over to remote areas. This leaves people in rural & remote areas with slow or no connectivity leading to a digital divide. In today’s age, the internet is key to provide people job opportunities, healthcare, education, financial services and access to smart cities. Being under-connected can mean missing all these opportunities for people. At UBBF, we saw how microwave technology is going to be critical to get proper connectivity even over geographically challenging terrains. This would allow operators to provide high bandwidth and low-latency connectivity to even the most remote areas.

Huawei’s Gigaband strategy has been built through collaborations with network operators and other industry partners. Huawei’s gigabit-capable networks will allow these new innovations to be envisioned, leading to mass-scale cloudification & development of smart cities.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own, I am not paid to write about them. Huawei does invite me for some events as a Key Opinion Leader.