The virtual reality headset launched by Apple is already making waves. But aside from its price, many in the UK won’t be able to access it without a total rollout of full fibre broadband, writes Dan Ramsay
When Apple takes a step with a new product line, the rest of the industry usually follows. After all, it is the world’s largest technology company. This week, Apple unveiled the Vision Pro, a hybrid virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) device the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
With Apple’s full weight behind it, the Vision Pro is likely to be the coming-of-age moment for virtual and augmented reality technology. It will change the way we consume media, work, and even interact with each other. From travel to design and everything in between, it will literally be seen through the lens of data-hungry VR/AR devices and apps.
Launching with a hefty price tag of more than $3,000, this device won’t be for everyone, but you can expect to see early adopters camping outside the Apple store on launch day. Within months, competitors will bring their own offerings to a wider market making big demands of the infrastructure needed to support it.
Like the AirPods and iPads that came before, these new products will become available to the mass market and find their way into homes across the UK, potentially becoming as ubiquitous as the phones we carry in our pockets. This is a well-trodden path for Apple, but for a device like this, which relies so heavily on a quality home broadband connection, there may be some challenges ahead. As is often the case, innovation outpaces the infrastructure capable of supporting it. It’s akin to building cutting-edge electric vehicles without the necessary charging infrastructure.
If the Vision Pro were to launch tomorrow, you’d find most consumers are still reliant on ageing copper connections, some of which could be decades old. These copper wires, a technology dating back to the Victorian era, are nonetheless expected to handle high speeds and massive amounts of data they were never designed for.
The problem lies in the fact that the majority of British consumers have yet to transition to full fibre, a far faster, more reliable, and cost-effective digital infrastructure. However, those within the industry fully anticipate the switch to this superior technology is inevitable. Perhaps some consumers have been waiting for a product like the Vision Pro before making the leap.
Unlike the challenge faced by electric vehicles, the broadband infrastructure required to power new technologies already exists at a significant scale. Currently, more than half of UK households are able to switch to a full fibre connection. Only those that do have full fibre connection will be able to embrace the full potential of this new generation of technology.
While infrastructure rollouts can often be slow, the full fibre rollout in the UK has accelerated at a phenomenal rate over the past five years, thanks to the competition and billions of pounds of investment made by alternative network builders. If Apple is to succeed with its new device, it may find its fate intricately linked to the widespread adoption of full fibre technology.
In the not-too-distant future, full fibre will bring even faster products that will make today’s home broadband experience feel as basic as communicating through paper cups and a length of string. However, Apple will need to heavily rely on the widespread adoption of full fibre connectivity in the UK – or the Vision Pro risks becoming little more than an expensive paperweight.