HTC and China Mobile Communications Corporation today jointly announced a partnership to “accelerate the proliferation of 5G infrastructure and devices in China.” Further, China Mobile, the country’s massive state-owned mobile phone carrier, will help HTC push its VR devices into more retail channels.

At MWC Shanghai 2018 this week, China Mobile and HTC signed the “5G Device Forerunner Initiative,” a joint effort to develop the 5G mobile network ecosystem with infrastructure and a devices. HTC believes that 5G will unlock new possibilities for VR and AR technologies, as CEO Cher Wang said earlier this year:

5G will massively enlarge VR and AR capabilities by leveraging supercomputing power in the cloud while lowering device power consumption. VR and AR will no longer be constrained to local hardware and storage. Virtual and augmented reality are part of the ‘virtuality’ continuum. They will be combined in different proportions in devices in the future depending on our needs. Cloud computing over 5G will enable every single VR and AR terminal to be the most powerful device in the world, bringing a more immersive experiences than ever.

The announcement today with China Mobile takes HTC another step toward that vision. The companies say that the partnership will “propel the development of newly enabled application models leading up to its 5G network’s broad commercialization in 2020.”

Image courtesy HTC

In addition to equipping networks and devices with 5G technology, the partnership will see China Mobile helping to “boost the sales of HTC products,” specifically the company’s VR devices, though details on exactly how that will happen aren’t clear yet.

One logical conclusion to draw from this news is that may one day see a new version of HTC’s standalone Vive Focus headset with 5G connectivity built right in; currently the company only offers models with WiFi. Further into the future, assuming HTC’s vision of 5G comes to fruition, we could see new VR and/or AR headsets which act as thin clients that stream VR content that’s rendered in the cloud.

Image courtesy HTC

Where does that leave HTC’s tethered headsets, the Vive and Vive Pro? 5G cloud streaming could potentially also work for these devices, and in fact HTC has already experimented with dedicated boxes doing just that. If VR streaming from the cloud ever becomes viable, it could allow HTC to cut the high-end PC out of the VR equation all together, potentially making it more accessible to a larger audience.

Vive Focus 2.0 Update Brings Bevy of New Features: Phone Mirroring, Pass-through Video & More

VR streaming over 5G is not a foregone conclusion however. Even local streaming technology, to get the content just a short distance from the PC to the headset, is still in its infancy. VR’s extremely low tolerance for latency, and demand for still greater specifications, are the key challenges to delivering VR content from the cloud, even over a speedy 5G network. Only time will tell if the right factors come together to make it a reality.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • JJ

    yeah the 5g cloud computing will start to change everything. Like he said, any ar vr terminal will have all the power in the world and this is true.

    • JoelGriffinDodd

      Wouldn’t the latency requirements of VR and ‘sensitivity’ of 5G cause issues though? I’m certainly not a 5G expert, I’ve just read articles saying that it’s throughput can be very sensitive to environmental changes. I assume they would adopt a model of ‘streaming apps’ to the device rather than just trying to pump out fully rendered VR hi-def content at sub 20ms latency. Also good luck with your ISPs shitty data caps if you live in America, you’d use up your month’s limit in about 4 hrs of VR use.

      • JJ

        yupp thats all true but this solution is the end goal regardless, im not too confident 5G will provide a good experience but regardless then itll be 6G that does. These are all steps towards cloud computing so that your device can just be a terminal and have all the power in the world.

        • kalqlate

          “These are all steps towards cloud computing so that your device can just be a terminal and have all the power units you’re willing to pay for in the world.”

          • JJ

            uh yeah sure itll cost something, everything does, but then your cellphone is 100X more powerfull than any 2000$ pc you can build. dId you expect it to all just be free?

          • kalqlate

            Yes. I was definitely stating the obvious.

            Sowwy if I huht your widdow feewings.

          • kalqlate already read

          • kalqlate wrote

          • JJ

            and you cant quote something but add your own part…. that defeats the purpose of the quotes and makes it appear like they actualy said that to other people when they did not say units you will pay for.

          • Peter Hansen

            It’s satirical. Here in the comment section for a particular web article everybody undstands that. He does not go out into the “world” and claims that to be original, right?


    I would like it as an option but I‘m not keen on a future where everything I see and everything I do in VR/AR happens online.

    But then, I‘m just an old fart I guess.

    • JJ

      it has to be that way. Sending self contained one off experiences will be the minority soon

  • Scott Taylor

    I should point out that no matter what technology you use ou how powerful a computer you have rendering your app in the cloud, in order to maintain the sub 20ms frame time you need in VR, the cloud computer you connect to cannot be any farther away than 1860miles/2993km.

    And that’s not direct distance, it’s the distance the signal needs to travel, which will not be a straight line. And all of that is before you consider that the computer takes time to work. Every single millisecond that it takes the computer to render the app takes 186miles/299km off of that distance.

    It’s not a short distance, but it definitely needs to be considered.

  • oompah

    And when u want to find peace, solitude , calm & quiet
    all u have to do is this:
    Remove the headset
    so easy peasy