Many network capabilities will need to grow exponentially over the next decade in order to unleash the full potential of technologies such as XR, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and the Internet of the senses. After successfully dealing with the explosive growth of each previous technology generation, our industry is now investing in cutting-edge 5G and 6G research to meet future demands.
Industry leadership will require distinguishing QoE from the best-effort services that have traditionally dominated the IT industry. Secure QoE requires solutions that span the end-to-end ecosystem (E2E) of device, network, distributed and central computing, and application actors. This calls for collaboration between the various actors in the ecosystem to develop open standards that enable global scale, innovation, interoperability and performance.
Opening the door to an extended reality
Starting with more basic functionality, XR applications will evolve as hardware and network capabilities advance. Important application groups for this development include gaming, entertainment, social networking, retail, shopping, and virtual work, for example.
Current XR applications focus primarily on a single user who is physically present in a pre-defined static environment with semi-static immersive content meaning it only partially adapts to the environment, such as sticking to the floor or other flat surface. This will evolve into dynamic environments with moving objects and people, which means that applications need to start adapting to these dynamics.
As XR continues to grow, it will eventually be possible for multiple users to physically reside in dynamic environments with content that dynamically adapts to their surroundings. Real-time blocking of the presented content will enable a fully digital spatial experience.
To deliver immersive content, the physical environment must be replicated in a digital format known as a spatial map. Spatial maps are built on static physical environmental data, such as real estate and roads, overlaid with real-time environmental data such as moving vehicles and pedestrians.
To master the display, spatial map information also needs to include the location and orientation of the application user, including head movement and foveal area – that is, the area covered by the part of the human eye responsible for high acuity of vision.
XR applications will require new system design optimization across device E2E, connectivity, edge and cloud. For example, spatial map calculation and display distribution will have a strong impact on device power consumption, weight, and size. You’ll need to offload spatial mapping and display processing in order to design hardware with eyewear style, slim form factor and long battery life. Our research at Ericsson indicates that edge-to-edge XR application offload processing reduces device power consumption by three to seven times depending on the level of device processing offload.
The transition from traditional 2D media to advanced immersive media services increases the information load, due to the multiplicity of media streams and the increase in media quality requirements. It puts a high strain on the data transfer rates being processed and transmitted across the entire communication chain asymmetrically depending on how the XR use case is implemented – that is, it can affect uplink, downlink, or both. For example, offloading a device’s spatial mapping computation (to edge/cloud) will load more consistent downlink and uplink traffic than mobile broadband (MBB) traffic, which is essentially heavy downlink traffic.
To ensure Quality of Experience (QoE) for XR applications, strict constrained latency requirements are needed when offloading device computation to the edge and the cloud. To reduce the limited latency requirements, intelligent processing techniques will be implemented on the device, such as asynchronous time wrapping that shifts content displayed on the network to compensate for mode changes between display and display time.
To improve QoE for all network users, XR application traffic can be separated from other MBB traffic with the help of intentbased network segmentation. Furthermore, to ensure that latency requirements are met, time-critical communication features such as rate-adaptive Wireless Access Network (RAN) (using low throughput, low-loss, scalable technology) and optimum latency will be introduced.
There is a strong relationship between cellular broadband coverage, capacity, and latency requirements. The main parameters for improving broadband cellular network coverage are the efficiency of the assignment spectrum and the distance between sites. For 2030, the Ericsson Mobility Report anticipates an increase in traffic above the expected spectrum gain. Since this will not be enough to support the expected increase in traffic, the importance of network densification will increase to ensure capacity and increase uplink coverage for unlimited connectivity.
The increasing differentiation of XR services and the diversity of new device types require smarter interaction with the network. In the cognitive network, coordinating these interactions includes tasks such as device setup, connection management, and QoS policy selection. The network must have the ability to distribute actions between devices, RAN, core, edge, and application to dynamically secure QoE with minimal use of E2E resources. The first step in this direction is Dynamic End User Enhancement developed by Ericsson, a smartphone application that enables the user to dynamically enhance QoE.