Why you need to know about AR if you are in telco

Are you ready for the onslaught of Augmented Reality (AR)? You may be aware of Virtual Reality (VR), which is related, but not the same. Perhaps you are familiar with Pokémon Go, which is an example of AR being used for entertainment. If you work in the telecommunications industry, you can expect AR to affect your professional life too – it’s not only about gaming.

Let’s look initially at the distinction between these two emerging technologies. VR simulates the user’s physical presence in the real world or an imagined world. The experience of VR is akin to watching a movie, but with a greater sense of reality. AR differs in that it brings a combination of computer generated content such as video, audio and graphics to a real-time, real-world environment.

For the telecommunications industry, the implications of the growth in AR are twofold. Firstly, it is clear that telecommunications companies will use AR for their own needs. The other area of interest is the new and expanded infrastructure that will be required in order to meet bandwidth-hungry applications in industries as diverse as gaming, tourism and the military.

AR in telecommunications operations

Imagine a field technician on site, investigating a fault after being called out by the telecommunications company’s operations centre. With the benefit of AR, the technician brings all necessary data and repair instructions to a phone or tablet. As the device is geo-tagged, the data is specific to the equipment being repaired, right down to correct versions of software to be used.

When it comes to the demand for new infrastructure to support AR, the requirement for bandwidth will put a strain on last-mile networks says Alexandre Pelletier, Head of Innovations at Tata Communications. However, not all network providers see this as a landline issue. In Africa, where mobile prevails, EON Reality, Orange Telecom France, Mauritius Telecom, and State Informatics Limited (SIL) have formed a partnership to bring AR (and VR) to the region’s mobile subscribers.

In Australia, we are more likely to see a mix of solutions. While the technology is still developing, one thing is clear. AR is on the way, and telecommunications providers who ignore it will do so at their peril.