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The Network: Where the Metaverse Lives

April 13, 2022 - Julia Hogarty

What do we think of when we think of the metaverse? An always-on computer game? A Blade Runner-esque world of crypto trading? A live-in alternate reality?

In essence, it promises to be a digitally remastered version of the physical world with the malleability to be anything to anyone. For some purposes, it will act as a digital twin replicating and enhancing our physical reality and, in other instances, it will take the form of a tapestry of fantasy worlds designed to stretch our imaginations. It will all depend on the application. On the consumer side, it will be a virtual world of entertainment and indulgence. While on the enterprise side, it signifies a doubling down on digitalization and cloud-based operations.

For telcos, there initially appears to be two avenues of opportunity – enablement and participation. With many more still to materialise, no doubt. The metaverse is understandably an unwieldly concept to get a hold of as it shape-shifts to serve different value creation opportunities. But for operators, there is one immediate deliverable that plugs telcos into the metaverse mainframe – the network. The network is where the metaverse lives. So, pretty important. These experience-rich services will require a high throughput connection that can reliably support intensive, seamless experiences on demand. Enter, 5G.

 

Enabling the Metaverse

 

Amdocs recently conducted a body of research into the momentum of the cloud gaming market today. Interestingly, its conclusion revealed that the console wars have likely spluttered to an inevitable end and cloud gaming and the metaverse are on track for mainstream adoption. Some of the more specific findings were even more revealing, however. With 78% of gamers surveyed willing to pay more (between $10 and $20 more) for cloud gaming if it came bundled with a dedicated 5G connection, it is becoming clear that network quality is an acknowledged priority for these early adopters of all things metaverse. This is in stark contrast to your traditional consumer of telco services who is largely unaware of the G they’re on at any given time. This burgeoning appetite for cloud-based experience services may herald a new era of a far more network-conscious consumer. This is a positive for operators who have struggled to exemplify the consumer gains of 5G. The metaverse, or at least cloud gaming, may finally provide the key to drive engagement in 5G adoption.

Telcos have long been flirting with the idea of cloudifying their networks to embrace the full flexibility of standalone 5G and to support the kinds of content-rich services that are incoming. Operators like M1 Singapore have proven to be ambitious pioneers in this movement, successfully migrating 90% of their back-end systems to the cloud in 2021. Cloud is fundamentally transforming how technology and connectivity is being consumed today. The relationship between consumer and network is no longer distant and abstract, but instead engaged and continuous. When it comes to the metaverse, this relationship and consumers’ awareness of service quality will be more acute than every before and operators will have nowhere to hide. The network’s performance will be under interrogation around the clock. 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.

 

The research further revealed that gamers want quality over quantity when it comes to the immersive gaming experiences they expect to engage with in the metaverse. 39% prioritised the quality of their gaming experience over 7% valuing the quantity of choice. Put simply, consumers are looking to be reassured by their network coverage and how much they can depend on it before they jump headfirst into what the metaverse truly has to offer. This hesitancy is reflected by the research as 41% of respondents believed the metaverse (and its supporting infrastructure) is in too early a stage to jump in, while 37% were concerned about security risks.

 

Participating in the Metaverse

 

Telcos equally have an opportunity to participate in the metaverse by either extending the brand to have a metaverse presence or by selling metaverse-related bundles, or both. Extending omni-channel into the virtual dimension could mean creating virtual storefronts to promote brand awareness and manage online retail. Or it could mean the handling of customer care queries via an always-available virtual agent. The rule of meeting your customer where they are will apply to the metaverse as well.

 

Selling metaverse type packages would allow operators to properly tap into the experience services market with intent by providing a bundled service with network speed and latency assurances. Offering something like a ‘Go Metaverse’ package that includes everything a customer cold need to enjoy an immersive metaverse experience, from a connection which seamlessly transitions from indoor FWA to outdoor coverage to the necessary hardware accessories like XR headsets. Operators could even offer exclusive virtual packages where a subscription to a virtual event like a sporting season pass is bundled with a connection and a headset – Become a metaverse one stop shop.

 

Telcos could similarly look to serve businesses who need to support a more sophisticated remote working setup. Enterprise accounts may look to be given priority access to the closest server of the metaverse that their employees are collaborating within. There is also an opportunity to strengthen on-the-go offers for enterprise customers to include seamless coverage for metaverse type services as they are on the move.

 

Metaverse Grade Connectivity

 

The most pressing matter when it comes to making the metaverse a mainstream reality is providing “metaverse grade” connectivity. The scaling flexibility of cloud and 5G’s high throughput and low latency benefits will go a long way to achieving this. Telcos will be able to spin up dedicated network slices to support specific metaverse services with specific network requirements for specific groups of users. Powering the metaverse will require flexible monetization capabilities to enable the metaverse economy and to cater for inter-world customer journeys. The metaverse offers a new horizon of opportunity and a new forum to engage with consumers. It’s all to play for, so let’s get started.

 

For a more in-depth look at the types of opportunities the metaverse can offer service providers and other telco companies, the 40 Ways to Play in the Metaverse eBook, explores use cases across different industries. Setting the precedent within their respective sectors in the digital transformation of varying experiences, processes and talent in years to come. Follow the link to download your copy of the eBook [here].

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