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Wireless virtual reality headsets data consumption is forecast to explode over the next four years, putting a severe strain on both wireless and wired networks, according to a new report from Juniper Research.

The firm predicts data consumption from wireless VR headsets will skyrocket from almost 2,800 PB in 2017 to more than 21,000 PB in 2021 – an increase of 650 percent. That amount of data is equivalent to over 3 billion hours of 4K video streaming.

When combined with tethered VR headset traffic, data consumption will jump to more than 28,000 PB in the coming years, which the firm says will put substantial strain on both wireless and wired networks.

By 2021, VR devices will require more data demands than needed for 4K, propelled by the need for higher image quality and frame rates, according to Juniper’s report.

Network operators and broadband providers need to be part of the VR standards conversation starting now, the firm suggests, so that VR can be more accessible. Juniper contends that future data demand must be considered when thinking about specifications such as resolution and minimum frame rate.

The report also recommends that technologies like foveated rendering, which decrease the amount of data processing, be deployed and widely adopted.

While it’s anticipated that the majority of streamed VR will be trafficked over WiFi, most of the consumption will come from smartphone VR devices, so cellular networks must also provide added capacity to deal with extra data consumption.

The virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) market continues to grow, with more than $800 million invested in the technologies during the second quarter of 2017, according to Digi-Capital. The firm reports that number rounded out more than $2 billion invested across 27 VR/AR sectors in the last 12 months.

Juniper’s report, Virtual Reality Markets: Hardware, Content & Accessories 2017-2022, also found that social VR is growing, with Facebook and WeChat developing VR platforms and games.

“VR is currently seen as very isolating,” Juniper research author James Moar notes. “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.”

 

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