It is absolutely certain that the metaverse – the evolution of the internet into a world of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) – has the potential to dramatically affect all of our lives in less than a generation.
We will see societies operate differently and businesses grow in radically different ways, while at the same time we will see the emergence of new technologies and inventions that will harness the behavioral changes set in motion by this new world.
Telecommunications is the sector that will benefit most from the spread of the metaverse. Through this virtual environment, providers can improve the customer experience, generate revenue from investments in related services and increase their operational efficiency.
In addition, however, the metaverse provides them with a unique opportunity to claim a much more active role in the industry value chain, and to transform themselves from a mere channel for the distribution of services to key protagonists and co-creators of this new digital network of virtual worlds.
They will achieve this by leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as the cloud, 5G and artificial intelligence, but above all by undertaking business initiatives, which should move in the following directions:
1. Play a leading role in developing the necessary hardware
The gateway to the digital world of the metaverse will be devices such as AR and VR headsets, game consoles and smartphones. VR technology is nothing new, however, to date, it remains less popular with consumers.
To change this, the technology will need to be improved in terms of portability, quality of resolution and field of view. Telecoms providers should work with device vendors and drive adoption, for example by selling combined VR/AR devices and connectivity services to consumers, adopting an end-to-end ‘device lifecycle management’ approach.
2. Become a dominant connectivity provider
The growth of the metaverse requires further development and improvement of connectivity. 5G services offer higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, greater reliability and a more uniform experience. The commercial deployment of 5G networks will attract consumers, as well as businesses, to the metaverse.
As we approach 2030, we will witness the transition to the next generation of wireless technology, with even higher data rates (6G) and much shorter latency times. The growth of fibre connectivity will add further momentum to the metaverse, while the latest generation of Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi 6 – will allow us to address challenges related to network capacity and efficiency.
3. Develop capabilities to deliver cutting-edge computing services
The computing power, response times and AI computing capabilities that the metaverse will require are hundreds of times higher than what we have today. When, in the future, millions of people will experience virtual experiences in real time, it is doubtful that the cloud will be able to centralize and store all the resources involved.
Due to the requirement of minimum latency, it is advisable to make data available as close to the consumer as possible, which gives telecom companies a significant competitive advantage. However, they need to ensure more efficient data transport, improve perimeter security and alleviate network congestion while diversifying their revenue streams.
To do so, they will need to develop the necessary synergies with specialized cloud providers.
4. Improve their capabilities in advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence
The metaverse is based on collecting large amounts of data and redefining how it is collected, stored and used. The telecommunications industry, having experience in big data management, has a comparative advantage here too compared to other industries.
The wealth of information and data available to providers will allow them to make better decisions and process demand scenarios more efficiently.
5. Place cybersecurity and trust issues at the heart of their services
As the metaverse matures, vast amounts of critical data will be made available for processing. This makes privacy and security issues, top priorities.
Today, consumers and businesses alike are increasingly concerned about their digital footprint and the integrity of their personal data.
Interestingly, consumers tend to trust telecoms companies more as custodians of their personal data than other providers.
Confirmation, protection and management of digital identity will become more important as virtual worlds become more complex. Providers must leverage existing relationships with their customers to emerge as identity management experts as the metaverse takes shape.
6. Develop platforms in the metaverse
Many companies are introducing their own metaverse platforms and their success will be determined, in large part, by the number of users they attract. Much will depend on the ability of companies to create engaging, themed experiences that engage users for more time each day, as well as offering customized services for businesses and consumers.
Today, we estimate that the metaverse will initially develop by combining a number of large and small virtual worlds based on the real world, leading, in the medium to long term, to the creation of a hyper-virtual world.
To be able to benefit from this gradual evolution, telecoms companies will need to invest in emerging metaverse platforms so as to gradually build a deeper understanding of the demand scenarios and technical details that will ultimately shape business opportunities over time.
7. Be the key orchestrator of the ecosystem
The development of the metaverse will depend crucially on the creation of new frameworks for collaboration between businesses. To take advantage of the opportunities created, telecom companies will need to develop an ecosystem of partnerships.
At the same time, they will need to explore ways to strengthen relationships and broaden cooperation with existing vertical customers in the industry, but also to open a dialogue with policy makers in order to position themselves as orchestrators of the metaverse ecosystem.
Telecom companies have already played a key role in the pilot development of the metaverse. To remain leaders in the next phase of its commercialization, they will need to rethink the entire spectrum of their business operations, but also invest systematically in new technologies and customer experiences.