MWC 2022: Spatial Internet powered by 5G+XR the next big thing: Huawei’s Philip Song

Following the mobile Internet, Spatial Internet powered by Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)- together called as XR-will be the next big thing, said Philip Song, CMO, Carrier BG, Huawei,at the “5G Connecting Virtual and Reality” forum organized as part of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2022.

Delivering the speech on the topic, “5G + XR: Bringing Imagination into Reality,” Song explained how Huawei itself utilized the power of AR and VR during the pandemic to conduct annual meetings and virtual site visits. With just a mobile phone, the team members were able to scan the ports of equipment, and the engineer knows which cable should be plugged in.

According to a survey, XR industry will contribute 1.5 trillion dollars to global GDP by 2030. In 2021, more than 10 million units of Quest 2 were shipped. These 10 million users will be the critical mass for the XR ecosystem to take off.

The growth of VR devices is comparable to that of smartphones. Going with the current trend, it is estimated that VR headset shipment will reach 100 million units by 2025. The price of VR device has dropped to 300 dollars, making it affordable to the mass.

Besides device availability, the most important factor driving the growth of AR/VR is content. SteamVR is a famous VR gaming platform. It took 41 months to connect 1 million devices per month. But just 11 months later, the number increased to 3 million.

Beat Saber, a popular VR game, has seen 4 million copies sold, generating more than 180 million dollars in revenue.

With the continuous innovation of technologies, XR developer tools are evolving fast. For example, in the past, it required more than 200 lines of code to create an AR special effect. But now, only 10 lines of code are needed with Huawei AR engine. Developers do not need specialized AR development skills. AR model development is as simple as writing PPT, Song added.

Operators across major markets have deployed AR/VR services successfully. In South Korea, LG U+ provides AR/VR content to AIS, enabling AIS to quickly acquire content to develop XR users.

China Mobile Miguhas built a VR content aggregation platform to bring in premium content, such as the Winter Game and popular concerts.

Another successful case is TikTok. They crowdsource content from users and transforms them from PGC to UPGC, truly differentiating their content.

The three cases can map to a three-step content strategy, namely content introduction, content aggregation and content crowdsourcing, Song said.

The industry is also ready with appropriate standards to support the growth of the ecosystem by providing unified APIs, enabling One Development -Multiple Deployments. OpenXR, for example, is being adopted by almost all major hardware, platforms, and engine companies in the industry.

Another major attraction driving XR technology adoption is the impact it brings on user experience, Song said.  Global leading operators have already started delivering XR services to enhance quality of service and customer experience.

In South Korea, during the 4G era, the market share of LG U+ was 20%.  After the launch of 5G, it has grown to around 24%. This, according to Song, is chiefly attributed to the company’s investment on AR/VR services. As a result, the DoU and ARPU increased significantly as well. The South Korean operator said that a three-month delay in XR launch may take three years to catch up.

AIS, the largest telecom operator in Thailand, has adopted a step by step strategy, from introducing content to creating original content. AIS is preparing to launch AIS 5G Next Reality Studio, the first and only AR/VR content production center in Thailand. AIS have increased both mobile revenue and subscriber base.

China Mobile Zhejiang has a leading 5G business performance.To enrich 5G applications, it has launched 5G VR, 5G cloud gaming, and 5G cloud storage services.

Analyzing the current AR/VR development status and future potential, it is estimated that VR 2C will grow steadily in the next three to five years, while AR 2B and AR 2C will grow faster than others, according to Song.

While selecting an industry, operators need to consider the following four factors: application potential, regional industry concentration, technical feasibility, and commercial feasibility. While operators need to identify the right industries, they also need to define the right business model to turn feasibility into financial results.

For consumer space, operators generally offer XR services as part of 5G package to achieve quick wins and foster partner confidence. Then they will move to premium content, and explore scenario-based experience monetization, he added.

On the other hand, for enterprise customers, operators can offer scenario-based XR solutions to monetize differentiated capabilities.  Huawei believes XRtoB will be firstly adopted by the oil and gas, finance, education, and healthcare industries. On-site operations, 3D measurement, and virtual training will be the top three application scenarios. In all these scenarios, operators can monetize 5G and private line connectivity, cloud service and edge computing;

In addition to industry identification and business model design, operators need to keep improving XR experience and reducing production costs, as this is the common goal of the industry. Operators and the technology partners should build capability towards this direction.

Huawei proposes theMoore’s Law for the XR industry that will guide the continuous efforts of operators and technical partners.  According to this, traffic demand of popular XR content doubles every 18 to 24 months.

Two years ago, 4K 30-frame full-view XR content was the mainstream, but now 8K 60-frame FOV XR content is becoming more popular. In the next 2 to 4 years, 12K or even 24K XR content with higher frame rate will be the more common. And this premium content will consume network bandwidth and cloud resources at an exponential pace.

In addition, cloud service capabilities should also double every 18-24 months, allowing production costs of premium XR content to fall exponentially, Song added.

Huawei Cloud XR Service, a typical XR platform open to all, features capabilities such as large-scale 3D mapping, all scenario adaptive spatial computing, device and cloud synergy of AI rendering algorithms, digital human rendering and 360-degree VR video with Tile-Wise-Streaming Field of View.

While the Moore’s Law of the XR industry may be a hypothesis for now, it can become the reality if the whole industry works together, according to Song.

Huawei is pursuing the Moore’s Law concept for XR through continuous innovation. In terms of data interaction, Huawei’s AR-HUD can achieve a display distance of 7.5 meters and an FOV of 10 by 4 degrees.

With data transmission and network access as its core capabilities, Huawei has launched 5G Massive MIMO for all scenarios and upgraded FTTH to FTTR. “We are committed to a Gigaverse with ubiquitous gigabit access to support XR experience anytime, anywhere. In terms of cloud-network synergy, Huawei launched the “Cloud-network Express” and E2E Slicing solution to help XR industry partners quickly access multiple clouds and use cloud-based development capabilities,” Song said.

For data processing, Huawei offers real-time cloud rendering service for XR, providing affordable and diverse compute power for XR partners. Meanwhile Huawei’s AR Engine, XR Kit and Reality Studio platform lowers barrier of content development, improves content productivity, and accelerates the growth of content application, he added.

Rajani Baburajan