Building the network to make the metaverse work puts telcos right at the foundation
The metaverse needs ubiquitous high-bandwidth, low-latency communications and will require new user equipment unlike anything that’s been used on mobile networks before. Getting the metaverse to work at scale will require a flexible and performant foundation, and the people making the metaverse are depending on telecom companies to play a vital role in the ecosystem. With metaverse technology still either nascent or theoretical, it’s far too soon to see how the market will shake out. But that isn’t stopping some Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to jockey for early market position, even as the metaverse market still incubates.
The metaverse has been described as a “spatial internet,” a three-dimensional reinterpretation of internet technology. That can include fully immersive virtual reality (VR) in some cases, augmented reality (AR) – images or contextually meaningful data overlaid on a user’s view of their surroundings, and mixed reality (MR), a blending of the two. The purposes of the metaverse run from the sublime to the mundane. Its proponents, like the rebranded Facebook company Meta, say it’ll be a place for consumers to shop and play. Companies like Nvidia and Siemens see it as a training ground for smarter, more efficient AI and industrial manufacturing processes.
Whatever the metaverse turns out to be, there’s work to be done on the network side to get it to function. 5G is a lynchpin to get the metaverse to work. Ericsson acknowledged the challenges of getting the metaverse to perform on mobile networks, but says that 5G is up to the task.
“5G offers rate, range, reliability, latency and so much more. Indeed, the average [download/upload] data rates provided by 5G today are 200Mbps/30Mbps per user,” said Ericsson researchers.
But even that isn’t enough, asserted Meta’s VP of connectivity Dan Rabinovitsj in a blog post.
“This opportunity calls for vast enhancements in capacity and fundamental shifts in how networks are architected and deployed, as well as industry-wide collaboration — from tech companies to mobile operators, service providers, policymakers, and more — to prepare for the metaverse,” wrote Rabinovitsj.
They point to emerging edge-cloud rendering technology as the key to maximizing that bandwidth and segmenting network traffic effectively to make the metaverse work at scale. That’s dependent on physical infrastructure to work. Telco efforts around Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) are the key. Redistributing compute and storage closer to the user reduces latency. The better distributed those resources are, the more customers can connect to the metaverse. Meta has opened the doors to telco collaboration to bring its vision to the next stage.
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