AT&T CTO Steps Up for Apple’s Vision Pro | Light reading

AT&T’s new networking chief Jeremy Legg has said Apple may need to move to an edge computing model for its augmented and virtual reality strategy at some point to deliver those services in a mobile rather than a stationary environment. .

However, Legg also pointed out that Apple’s first foray into AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) via its just-announced Vision Pro headset, which costs a whopping $3,499, will likely still use AT&T’s offerings even in a initial, stationary use case.

“The solutions that are in the backend [of headsets like Vision Pro] they’re fiber,” Legg said this week during the Collision Conference in Toronto. He said AT&T’s growing fiber network can provide the speeds needed for such gadgets, as well as the symmetrical upload and download connections that can support communications and interactions It also added that channel bonding within users’ Wi-Fi routers, a technology available today to bond transmissions together in various Wi-Fi spectrum bands, will also play a role.

Apple’s new Vision Pro headset, which goes on sale next year, is designed to connect to local Wi-Fi networks and doesn’t include the ability to connect to 4G and 5G networks like Apple’s iPhone.

But Legg said the situation could be very different if Apple hopes to eventually design a lightweight, portable Vision Pro headset intended for use in mobile environments, like walking around a city.

Jeremy Leg.  (Source: Collision Conference)

Mobility “becomes a different equation because you’re dealing with spectrum,” Legg continued. “Spectrum is limited and so there’s only so much bandwidth that you can optimize on a given cell tower at any given time. So the question on the mobility side actually shifts a bit: how much computing power do you actually want to put into the device itself, so that it’s literally calculating right on your face, instead of putting it back on the grid and doing the calculating into the grid?That very much dictates the spectrum that you’re going to use from one of these devices.

Legg said moving AR and VR computing to the network could reduce the cost of such headsets. “It’s really more of a cost equation,” she said. “The benefit is you have that local computer, the downside is they’re very expensive because you have to use a lot of technology that’s built into the device itself. So I think there’s going to be a mix of those things that happen over time.”

A market that moves slowly

To be clear, Legg isn’t the only telecommunications executive arguing that VR goggles and edge computing will eventually play a big role in the future of the computing industry.

For example, a wide variety of executives in the data center and cell tower industries continue to argue that edge computing will eventually mature. Broadly speaking, they argue that future computing services will require fast connections to nearby data centers, and today’s massive centralized computing resources won’t be able to provide those kinds of low-latency connections.

In fact, according to reports, overall latency in Apple’s Vision Pro design is around 12 milliseconds, which is far below the 31ms on most US mobile networks, according to Ookla’s Speedtest.

In addition, AT&T executives have been promoting the possibility of edge computing for years. In recent years, the operator has undertaken tests and edge computing deployments using technologies from hyperscale giants such as Microsoft, Google Cloud and IBM. And late last year, Legg said the carrier would roll out its 5G core in 12 “outlying areas” across the United States.

But the edge computing market in general has been in fits and starts. For example, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a wide range of technology operators and companies were preparing edge computing tests and deployments. But traffic spikes at the start of the pandemic in 2020 forced operators to shift spending to core network upgrades that could support that demand.

As a result, investments in edge computing have been halted or delayed. And even now, carriers like Verizon have admitted to relatively slow demand for their newly updated edge computing offerings.

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Mike Dano, editorial director, 5G and mobile strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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