The metaverse has captivated technology innovators everywhere, not only because it provides fertile ground for value creation and new revenue streams but also because it represents a lofty ambition for ubiquitous connectivity. The dream is that this will allow you to enjoy digital services based on high-quality connectivity no matter where you are—home, office, bus, beach, etc.—without disconnecting, lagging, or losing quality network-to-network.
The metaverse has the promise and potential to become an extension of people\’s lives—opening the door into a parallel virtual reality where people could opt to live, work, and play continuously in real-time. Some describe it as the next generation of the internet—and certainly if appropriately realized—it could be every bit as positively disruptive if it delivers on its promise. However, it can only fulfill its real ambition if its relationship with ubiquitous connectivity, including 5G, Wi-Fi, in-home fiber, private networks, satellite broadband, and more, is strong. The network is where the metaverse lives, making it one of the essential pieces to achieving success. These experience-rich services will require a high throughput connection that can reliably support intensive, seamless experiences on demand.
Because of this dependent relationship, communications service providers (CSPs) are in a prime position to enable and participate in the endless opportunities metaverse has to offer. However, as CSPs look to expand offerings to meet customer demands, there are potential barriers to entry to consider when optimizing networks for the digital future.
According to a recent report from Amdocs, 41% of consumers think the metaverse is in too early a stage to jump in—making it imperative to understand what is driving consumers\’ conservatism and plan how to alleviate their concerns. Over one-third of consumers (37%) are concerned about security and identity theft risks in the metaverse. In comparison, one-third (33%) believe that the cost of hardware is too expensive, and nearly a quarter (21%) believe their internet can\’t handle it. Happily, another benefit of 5G may help address these issues.
A network fit to handle the metaverse
In terms of ubiquitous connectivity, there are numerous wireless connectivity technologies today that must be addressed. Bluetooth lacks range, rate, and reliability. Current generations of Wi-Fi offer the required speed but suffer from congestion and high latencies once multiple devices are added.
There will be opportunities for CSPs to act as aggregators for different types of networks. When it comes to ubiquitous connectivity, a seamless end-to-end customer experience will be a critical piece of the puzzle, either when coming or going from a network. Artificial intelligence (AI) and network governance will become increasingly important to manage this.
The dawn of standalone 5G networks will arguably be one of the most critical pieces of this puzzle.
Why standalone 5G will be imperative
To embrace the total flexibility of standalone 5G, CSPs are exploring the idea of \”cloudifying\” their networks to support the kind of content-rich services expected in the future—both in scaling their central functions and providing services at the edge. This means that embracing cloud and accelerating 5G rollouts will become imperative to staying relevant and securing market share when the metaverse comes to town.
With 5G, networks can provide ultra-reliable low latency communication (URLLC) while also satisfying the quality of service (QoS) issues and guaranteeing the quality of experience continuously through dedicated service slices. The metaverse will require high throughput, and URLLC means that the network is optimized to process very high volumes of data packets with a massively low tolerance for delay. This means no buffering and an unprecedented level of real-time capability, imperative in virtual reality experiences. Through 5G, delivering the service, managing the QoS, and monetizing the digital assets is achievable should networks prioritize the needed steps to get it to the level of required ubiquitous connectivity for the metaverse.
Bundling costs to make the metaverse worthwhile
Right now, the metaverse highly depends on having VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality) technologies and devices to access it. Therefore, it will likely make the most business sense for the big tech companies to pay for building the infrastructure and for consumers to pay for the hardware (like VR/AR sets) and access to the infrastructure (through payments to telecoms). Like paying a phone, cable or streaming platform bill today, consumers could be adding a metaverse bill to their monthly expenses in the future—opening the door to more revenue streams for CSPs. And the \”access devices\” will get better and better over time—ultimately becoming a fashion accessory much as phones have done.
66% of consumers are willing to pay more for a cloud gaming subscription if bundled with a dedicated 5G connection, and 78% are willing to pay at least $10. Meaning, that concerns of cost could be alleviated for consumers if they were assured, they would have the 5G speed and ubiquitous connection to make the metaverse worthwhile.
Offering metaverse-type packages would allow operators to tap into the experience services market and lowers costs for consumers by providing bundled services that ensure network speed and latency. For example, building a package could include everything a customer needs to enjoy an immersive metaverse experience: from a connection that seamlessly transitions from indoor wireless access to outdoor coverage to the necessary hardware accessories like VR/AR headsets. Operators could even bundle a subscription with a headset and a connection for a specialized event or partnership, such as an all-season pass to MLB, NFL, NBA, etc.
All roads lead to ubiquitous connectivity
Lowering the barriers to entry for consumers will be critical in making the metaverse a thriving ecosystem. The most pressing matter is providing \”metaverse grade\” ubiquitous connectivity. The scaling flexibility of 5G\’s high throughput and low latency benefits will go a long way to achieving this, which will tackle the barriers to adoption for consumers.