The telecoms sector needs less virtual reality and more actual reality

virtual reality
Credit: GSMA

If MWC17 is anything to go by, the telecoms sector is getting suckered by virtual reality hype. Forget that virtual crap and come back to the real world

I came away from Barcelona this year “virtually” bewildered. It’s the first time that I have honestly wondered where the telecoms industry is heading.

The theme of this year’s event was “The Next Element”. I’m not sure we’ve even mastered “the last element”, whatever that was. Are we just making stuff up as an excuse to generate new business, or are we really making progress in connecting everyone in the world, regardless of the number of Gs in the technology label?

How can we really believe those announcements of 5G trials when we don’t really know what 5G is yet? What’s the benefit of spending billions on something that may be more bleeding edge than leading edge?

And what has virtual reality got to do with the real world that telecoms networks operate in? We still haven’t mastered software defined networks and their virtualization – now we have to contend with virtual reality. Hell, I’m barely coping with the reality of Donald Trump becoming the most powerful man in the world!

And can anybody tell me how wearing an oversized eye-mask is going to improve business productivity? Can you really see yourself strapping one on for any other reason than to experience something unreal? And do you really want others to see you gyrating like a drug-crazed deviate as you shoot all those virtual characters that are coming at you from all directions?

Who will be able to afford the paraphernalia that you would need to buy to get the full experience of movement associated with things like flying through the air, whitewater rafting, or riding a surreal rollercoaster? You can probably do the real thing for a lot less money.

Someone even had the audacity to suggest the porn industry would lead the way with virtual reality, as it did with online content, video delivery and commercialization of the internet. I don’t think so, do you? Stick with the current offerings would be my advice. They are a lot cheaper. Better still, spend the money on a real person by taking them out to a posh restaurant, show or night club. Take my tip – if you have invested in Oculus, get out quickly. This is a passing fad.

Along with VR, we had high-definition video and 4K TVs being demonstrated. MWC is starting to look like CES with all the gadgets. Are we collectively going mad? All these things are incredibly bandwidth-hungry. Their mere existence, if adopted by the masses, will stretch our networks to the limit. We are barely keeping up now, and we allow them to infiltrate our space. They are modern Trojan horses. We think we are clever letting them in to highlight what we may be able to deliver in future, when we are really raising expectations of our customers and scaring the pants off our stakeholders who only see the need for more investment without an appreciable increase in revenues.

I, for one, am not going waste good money on a higher-res TV, a mask that takes me to another world, a listening device that plays the music I like and writes a shopping list when I talk to it. I can’t even understand why anyone would want to talk to their personal assistant on a smartphone when everyone around you can hear the conversation and whatever you do is being recorded and sold to the highest bidder hoping to sell you something down the track.

I’m tempted to start a reality movement called “The Real World” and only invite network operators and suppliers that can guarantee 100% connectivity at 3G/4G speeds, which is more than enough for what I need. And I would opt for a home network management system that was smart enough to allocate and distribute bandwidth dynamically to whatever device needs it at the time.

Those two things would probably alleviate the need for more spectrum, and more fiber and cable rollouts. Let’s turn our backs on all that virtual crap and deliver the things that really matter. Do I have any takers?

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