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China Telecom Sichuan powers cloud VR with dual-gigabit services

2020.02.17 By Liao Song, Deputy General Manager, Marketing Department, China Telecom Sichuan

China Telecom Sichuan’s new dual-gigabit service will open up the cloud VR industry by clearing the final hurdle for the technology to enter millions of homes underpinned by an end-to-end ecosystem.

China Telecom Sichuan

In recent years, the global VR industry has flourished and cloud VR has attracted a large number of users. The whole industry chain has been working on content, platforms, and device innovation to gradually build a complete cloud VR ecosystem. To guarantee the cloud VR experience, the transmission network has become a critical part of the ecoystem.

Following the release of its commercial cloud VR service on October 10, 2019, China Telecom Sichuan then launched its dual-gigabit service on October 31 in partnership with Huawei and others. This signaled the completion of the end-to-end industry chain for cloud VR and readiness to serve massive numbers of subscribers, marking a new chapter in the evolution of cloud VR.

Cloud VR powers gigabit service innovation

As a leading telecommunications company, China Telecom Sichuan has carried out tireless service innovation. Gigabit broadband is a key step in the development of home broadband services and it has become a signature service embodying an operator’s network quality and service capabilities.

Thanks to its technical expertise in fixed network technology, China Telecom Sichuan has deep insight into the development trends of home broadband services. Our full-fiber transformation, architecture simplification, and equipment upgrades have led to noticable quality improvements in our broadband network.

When introducing gigabit broadband, China Telecom Sichuan has also become the first in the industry to define standards for gigabit services – 900 Mbps for wired connections to the home, an actual measurement of 600 Mbps for Wi-Fi in busy locations, and Wi-Fi rates of over 300 Mbps throughout the home. These standards will provide a standardized foundation for the rapid and healthy development of the gigabit industry in the future and will hopefully become industry benchmarks.

Gigabit broadband may be great, but high-quality services are still needed to fully harness the actual value of the network and encourage consumer willingness to spend, thereby forming a positive business cycle.

Cloud VR's advantages of being cord-free, lightweight, and low cost solve the problems that have previously limited the popularity of VR products: awkward controls, heavy headsets, and price. 

With its technological advantages in home broadband networks and video platforms, China Telecom Sichuan is perfectly positioned to meet the network demands of cloud VR, like high bandwidth, low latency, and platformization.

China Telecom Sichuan was the first provincial division of China Telecom to build a full-fiber network. At a stroke, fiber-to-the-home solved the issue of how to provide a smooth video experience. Now with gigabit access, the problem is how to boost user enjoyment. 

What kind of services can be provided to subscribers to justify upgrading to gigabit network? We believe that cloud VR will become a key service in the next generation of smart homes. However, operators need a heavyweight service to drive adoption, or they will face bottlenecks in broadband growth. We're extremely optimistic about cloud VR in the future.

Four elements of E2E cloud VR

As a new service, cloud VR needs an end-to-end service support and an operations system. In partnership with Huawei and others, China Telecom Sichuan focuses on network, platform, content, and devices.

China Telecom Sichuan

Network first, then upgrade home broadband

Cloud VR creates extremely challenging network requirements. According to research data from Huawei iLab, the entry-level experience stage requires bandwidth of at least 130 Mbps and network latency of less than 20 ms. This means using the 10G PON transport network. The requirements are more stringent than for any previous home services.

As a benchmark-setter in the fixed network industry, China Telecom Sichuan understands the importance of a high-quality network for cloud VR. For this reason, we’re working with Huawei to explore cloud VR transport network solutions.

To meet the high bandwidth requirements of high-frequency bitstream cloud VR services, China Telecom Sichuan has built a home broadband gigabit access capabilities using advanced 10G PON technology.

The home network is currently the weak point in the cloud VR transport network. To address this, China Telecom Sichuan has adopted three measures. First, we adopted Wi-Fi 6 10G PON VR ONT products to support network speeds of up to 10 Gbps and provide gigabit ultra-fast broadband for VR services. Second, we used next-gen Wi-Fi 6 chips and optimized algorithms to solve essential problems in the wireless network affecting home user experience such as strong signal conflicts, high interference, poor coverage, and low speeds. Finally, we used EAI algorithms to intelligently identify VR video/gaming services to provide exclusive transmission channels and directional QoS guarantees for cloud VR video and gaming services. This ensures a smooth, stutter-free frame rate for VR video, live streaming, and gaming. And in conjunction with SOC chips and Wi-Fi air interface acceleration, it delivers sub-7-ms latency on the Wi-Fi network.

Platform cloudification to adapt to future service evolution

China Telecom Sichuan relies on the powerful service capabilities of the group platform to centrally manage user service data. It also provides 8K VR video processing capabilities and cloud VR rendering PaaS services to accelerate content generation and aggregation.

China Telecom Sichuan and Huawei have also joined forces to quickly deploy VR CDN nodes and rendering nodes in Sichuan province. Combined with China Telecom Sichuan’s high-quality network, this guarantees a good user experience with lower latency and more professional services.

Content aggregation – multiple centralized and local channels

Content is the key way for cloud VR to attract subscribers. In addition to the wealth of content on the group platform, China Telecom Sichuan has also created a cloud VR content system with local characteristics. And in a pioneering move, it has set up a zone in the e-Cloud VR platform for the province – dubbed Changyou Tianfu (meaning "enjoy a tour of Sichuan"). While satisfying local users’ diverse interests, the platform has also become a window for promoting Sichuan and it acts as a unique showcase of content with a Sichuan flavor.

Diverse devices to integrate with more major manufacturers

Device experience has a direct effect on user perception. China Telecom Sichuan opted for VR all-in-one headsets that offer the best experience in the industry. Teaming up with Huawei, we incorporated Huawei’s recently launched VR Glass into our cloud VR device ecosystem. Thanks to its disruptive design and sleek portability, coupled with immersive 3D stereo sound and a 360-degree full viewing angle, I’m confident that the impressive team-up between Huawei VR Glass and China Telecom Sichuan’s cloud VR service will introduce users to astounding new experiences.

Cloud VR: From home to industry

Thanks to our long-term, consistent investment in broadband technology research and service innovation, China Telecom Sichuan has developed a powerful and efficient cloud VR service system, laying a solid foundation for the commercial success of cloud VR. Right now, cloud VR has become the signature service of Sichuan Telecom’s dual-gigabit product. We’ve launched a number of use cases including VR live streaming, VR panoramic video, 3D cinema, and VR gaming to drive popularity among home subscribers. With cloud VR, users will be able to enjoy concerts, sporting events, movie blockbusters, vibrant scenery, and play VR games all from the comfort of their homes.

As the lead service in China Telecom Sichuan’s dual-gigabit package, cloud VR has already attracted a large number of consumers wanting to experience it for themselves. The groundbreaking visual experience tends to astound everyone, and it's the main reason why many people sign up for the dual-gigabit package. To allow more consumers to enjoy gigabit cloud VR, China Telecom Sichuan has also introduced attractive preferential policies. For example, one promotion offers a full set of equipment including a VR headset for only 399 yuan (US$57), far less than the market value of 2,499 yuan and a hard-to-resist deal for consumers.

We’re still exploring applications in B2B scenarios and have formulated a preliminary MOU with a community to jointly launch cloud VR pilots in education, so it can play a more important role in community and public projects. For its next step, China Telecom Sichuan will continue to explore other areas including VR hotels and VR education and strive to implement more industry use cases.

Looking ahead, cloud VR will be essential for the industry to drive the widespread adoption of VR. It will become a next-generation application with tens of millions of subscribers like IPTV was in the past, as well as a major service in the gigabit and 5G era. China Telecom Sichuan’s launch of its dual-gigabit service opens up a new chapter in the development of the cloud VR industry. It signals that China Telecom’s cloud VR has cleared the final hurdle into users' homes. We aim to get cloud VR into millions of homes, so that more consumers can experience its amazing capabilities. 

China Telecom Sichuan is willing to join forces with upstream and downstream players to build a sustainable cloud VR industry ecosystem and promote the prosperity of the cloud VR industry.

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