The ITU has set forth the vision for 5G in which 5G services will be delivered in three scenarios (eMMB, mMTC, and uRLLC). In the eMBB scenario, 5G will support a downlink speed of above 2 Gbps. In the mMTC scenario, 5G will support more than one million connections every square kilometer. In the uRLLC scenario, 5G will shorten latency at air interfaces to less than 1 ms and increase reliability to 99.999%. By integrating the three scenarios, 5G will boost the VR video industry.
Analysis on Mainstream VR Service Patterns
Users have experience in VR through terminals. There are three types of VR terminals in the market.
Wired VR Headset
A wired VR headset, acting as the display, needs to be connected to a host installed with a high-performance video card before providing users with VR experience. Strong image rendering enables wired VR headsets to run large VR games and provide the best VR experience. But high-performance hosts are not affordable for average users, which hinders VR popularization.
All-in-One VR Headset
An all-in-one VR headset integrates the data storage and receiving, image processing, and image displaying functions and provides VR experience after being connected to the network. However, the all-in-one VR headset is applicable to VR videos rather than VR games due to its poor image processing performance.
Smartphone VR Headset
A smartphone VR headset provides VR experience by using a VR box and a smartphone installed with VR-dedicated APPs. A user can use the smartphone VR headset to experience VR at the lowest cost. The smartphone VR headset hardly provides HD images or good VR experience because the experience depends on the smartphone screen.
Combination of VR and 5G
A common physical effect in VR experience is dizziness, which is due to the low resolution and insufficient frame rates. As generally believed in the VR industry, users will not feel dizziness when watching VR images at 4K or higher resolution. Higher resolution places higher requirements on network transmission (Table 1).
As shown in Table 1, 5G provides high bandwidth required for VR services. The downlink speed for a single user in the 5G network can reach 2 Gbps, meaning that multiple users can experience VR through one access at one time.
Latency, another index of VR services, can be greatly shortened in the 5G network because of the MEC architecture. Video data is rendered and accelerated by the MEC without being transferred to the internet through the core network. This effectively shortens the data transmission path and thus shortens latency.
Innovative 5G Application Cases
After an in-depth research of 5G industrial applications, ZTE selected VR video as the first application to be deployed in the 5G network. Up to now, ZTE has achieved excellent VR demonstration effect, which can also have a tremendous social influence.
Live 360° Panoramic Broadcast
ZTE presented panoramic videos transmitted through the 5G network to the world at the 2017 World Internet Conference, which was the first of this kind in the world.
The 360° panoramic video uses standard 4K images and requires high bandwidth. This type of video was transferred only through the wired network, which restrained live broadcast because the camera had to be connected to a network cable. ZTE innovatively used the 5G network for panoramic video backhaul and enabled the camera to move freely.
The 5G live broadcast system comprises three parts: scenic area, 5G system, and demo area.
● Scenic area: In ZTE’s live 5G broadcast system, panoramic cameras are installed on a sight-seeing boat in Xizha scenic area of Wuzhen. The 5G terminals in the boat transfer 4K panoramic video data to the 5G network in real time.
● 5G system: The 5G system includes 5G base stations ( 5G NRs) and 5G core (5GC). Video data sent by 5G terminals is converged in the 5GC and then transferred to the demo area.
● Demo area: The demo area is in the hall of WIC2017. A video host receives 4K panoramic data and then projects images onto a TV. Participants can enjoy the panoramic sight through VR as if they were on the sight-seeing boat.
Canals in Xizha are covered by 3.5 GHz 5G pre-commercial eNBs. HD cameras are installed on a sight-seeing boat. Images are uploaded through the 5G network in real time. With the sight-seeing boat navigating the water, a beautiful 4K scene of the water town is displayed to the audience in the conference.
Integrating images from multiple HD cameras raises high requirements on uplink transmission rates. The uplink transmission rate in the 5G NR network can reach hundreds of Mbps, enabling 4K HD images to be transferred to the big screen in the conference without any loss even though the field environment is continuously changing. So the audiences in the conference can enjoy the sight o f the water town through HD panoramic video and experience the high bandwidth of the 5G network.
Low-Latency VR Game
ZTE demonstrated the industry's first cloud VR game based on the 5G network and MEC architecture in collaboration with China Mobile at the World Mobile Conference 2018 in Barcelona.
The cloud VR solution jointly proposed by ZTE and China Mobile can perfectly balance costs and performance of VR devices for users. In the solution, MEC is deployed in the 5G network to provide open capabilities, which allow GPU clusters to be deployed. Images of the VR game are rendered on the edge cloud. In this way, a user can use all-in-one VR headset at a lower price to experience VR games that could be available by HD hosts at a much higher price. It is estimated that the VR game industry will grow exponentially. Fig. 1 shows the architecture of MEC-based cloud VR game.
Live Video Broadcast by Drones
In March 2018, ZTE, in collaboration with China Telecom and DJI, made a live drone video broadcast based on the 5G network in China’s Xiong’an New Area.
Drones have been widely used in personal entertainment and industrial scenarios. However, videos captured by drones were hardly broadcast live because there were no high-speed video backhaul channels. The live broadcast drone of DJI can backhaul 1080p videos in real time. After being encoded and transferred through the 5G network, users can watch the video captured in real time by drones in the remote demo area.
Behind the rich application cases is the development of the next-generation telecom technologies. 5G is breaking through mobile communications and penetrating into every industry such as tourism, family entertainment, and manufacturing, to make human life more intelligent, more automated, and more connected on the internet. Its application in VR is only an epitome.
VR video application, 5G, wired VR headset, all-in-one VR headset, smartphone VR headset, live 360° panoramic broadcast, low-latency VR game, Drones