Momentum toward immersive, interactive VR experiences will affect their 5G future in terms of capacity, congestion, and business models unless they plan ahead
When tech prophesier Neal Stephenson coined the phrase “metaverse” 30 years ago, it was only in sci-fi that digital and physical worlds really melded. But Facebook’s rebrand to Meta is attempting to make “metaverse” a bigger part of our everyday vernacular, and perhaps “cryptocurrency,” “blockchain,” and “non-fungible tokens (NFTs)” along with it.
In the last few months, millions-of-dollars of metaverse real estate have been sold, with venture capitalists, celebrities, and luxury brands racing to build out personal and professional “themed” social-engagement and e-commerce spaces. Nike, Gucci, Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, Sothebys, and König Galerie are just some brands that hope avatars of our real selves will engage in virtual counterparts of their physical stores.
But can the current universe support the metaverse? Some communications service providers (CSPs) are thinking about this now. For example, Telefónica has partnered with Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia and GSMA to test out immersive shopping and holographic communication over 5G.
They are the first of what will no doubt be many trying to grasp what speeds and latencies will be necessary for the metaverse to work. It’s possible a single user on full-throttle metaverse would congest a 5G cell, so what will that mean for capacity planning and congestion management?
As pointed out in CircleID, even just a portion of an immersive experience – like an “advanced” 360-degree VR app – might need about 400 Mbps and 20 ms of latency for an “ideal” rather than suboptimal experience; more “extreme” VR experiences might require closer to 1 Gbps and 10 ms latency; and truly interactive experiences might require 2 Gbps. And if 5G answers the issue of the last mile, what about the latency between ISPs and backbones, and what will CSPs have to do to ensure app QoE for metaverse apps?
Those questions are particularly salient for CSPs that at the same time have to worry about assuring quality of IoT experiences over their networks.
Will it be up to just the CSPs to invest intensively in the infrastructure on top of which big tech has profited and will continue to profit? As we saw in our 2022 Global Internet Phenomena Report, apps like ROBLOX are moving up rapidly with metaverse-style games, and the biggest apps – Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple – are having an outsize impact with nearly 57% of global network traffic attributable to their apps.
If metaverse popularity grows, and its demands exponentially increase the impact on “everyone else,” should telecom and big tech work more closely together on issues of not only infrastructure, but also interoperability, security, and privacy?
In our Report, we already see how the surge in video – not only as a standalone, but as an embedded component of app mashups – and the volume and complexity of apps are both flooding networks, and obscuring what operators can see in terms of granular detail.
That’s why a higher level of application and network intelligence will be needed – granular classification of at least 95% of all network traffic at 250 millisecond intervals – as metaverse apps will require flawless performance to be compelling and monetizable. Avatars will have to look and move like humans, and environments will have to offer something “other worldly” to lure people away from just the physical. Enterprises and consumers will expect a frictionless and seamless experience.
Why the metaverse may matter?
Beyond just having “fun,” there may be actual good that can come from the metaverse, if it’s done right. For example, chronically ill children who cannot attend school or run and play with friends are already remotely piloting robot “doubles” in classrooms and other venues as “proxies” with whom friends and teachers engage. That application could be extended to a metaverse in which friends could further interact, perhaps to do homework, play Dungeons and Dragons, trade cards or figures represented by NFTs, or any myriad of activities. In addition:
- Enterprises could foster collaboration in building strategy and actual goods or services using the metaverse, as Deloitte is doing in combining 5G, AR/VR, and the IoT in its Dimension 10 studio.
- People whose families are far flung around the globe could do metaverse weddings, like an impending Harry Potter/Hogwarts-themed one in which NFTs representing invitations, attire, and art will be used to add unique dimension otherwise not possible in a purely real-world wedding.
- People living remotely or in harsh, sun-deprived climates might find a positive escape with coworkers, friends, and family in metaverse settings that offer parks with sunny skies, or sport pitches for football, soccer, rugby, or cricket.
More and more, what is happening physically will also be happening virtually in parallel. Recently, the Australian Open metaverse ran parallel to the actual grand slam event, with a 4,000% NFT gain during Rafa Nadal’s history-making match, in which each winning stroke was assigned an NFT.
In addition to sports, it’s expected that gaming will be one of the more immediately monetizable pieces of the digital world – so much so that Microsoft decided to make a $68.7 billion bid for Activision Blizzard a few weeks ago. Revenue from virtual gaming worlds could grow to $400 billion as soon as 2025, and the metaverse may represent a $1 trillion market opportunity.
The leaders of Meta, Microsoft, Google, and Tesla are driving those predictions with massive investments in super computers capable of quintillions of operations per second, commercialized electromyography (EMG) that will know what people are thinking from subtle gestures and movements, and brain-computer interfaces that may eliminate the need for clunky hardware and inputs.
The digital-physical amalgams on the horizon will rapidly transform consumer and enterprise spaces, as well as industries, health care, education, governments, and more. The question is not “if” but “when”…and, whether today’s telco infrastructure, or future 5G infrastructure, can really handle the combination of machine vision, AI, AR/VR, and 3D holographs/simulations that will make up numerous metaverses.
As these trends unfold, we will continue to optimize our solutions for 5G and the cloud in preparation for the speed, scalability and security demands of today’s apps and those on the horizon.
To learn how we are optimizing networks and assuring Application QoE, view our 2022 Global Internet Phenomena Report and accompanying webinar, and contact us for a closer look at our Application and Network Intelligence Portfolio, 5G Service Intelligence Engine, and Analytics.
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