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A Virtual-Reality Data Crunch Is Coming: Juniper

The coming VR revolution may be delayed by heavy traffic.

A new report from Juniper Research forecasts that data consumption by wireless virtual-reality headsets, both smartphone-based and stand-alone, will grow six- or seven-fold in the next four years.

Juniper sees data consumption growing by more than 650 percent through 2021, from nearly 2,800 petabytes in 2017 to more than 21,000 petabytes in 2021. This would be the equivalent of streaming 3 billion hours of 4K video, placing significant additional strain on both wired and wireless network providers.

VR requires fast data speeds to stream content effectively and, by 2021, the data demand of each VR device is expected to exceed that of 4K, according to Juniper. This will be driven by the need for higher image quality and frame rates, a developing problem as VR becomes more mainstream.

In order to make VR more accessible, the Juniper report recommends bringing network operators and broadband providers into the VR standards conversation now. Juniper argues that the future data demand needs to be taken into account when considering specifications like minimum frame rate and resolution. In addition, technologies that reduce the amount of data processing, like eye-tracking foveated rendering, need to roll out and become universal.

The research also found that social VR is on the rise. Facebook and WeChat are currently developing VR platforms, and several VR games, most notably “Star Trek: Bridge Crew,” have social elements. These platforms are designed to bring more users into the VR ecosystem by offering new social interactions.

“VR is currently seen as very isolating,” wrote research author James Moar. “The promise of having new worlds to explore is much more compelling when other people can share the experience, which needs social games and social interfaces, as well as the development of cross-platform standards.”

A whitepaper, “How Oculus Killed VR Development & How to Fix It,” is available to download together with further details of the new research.