The term “metaverse” comes from the Greek word “meta” (beyond) and the root “verse” from the word “universe”. Neal Stephenson was the first person to ever use this term in his novel Snow Crash, published in 1992, which recreates its own universe based on the real world. A rather unthinkable scenario thirty years ago. Yet in 2022, many experts predict that the metaverse will be in our lives sooner than we thought. And even though, it is still unclear whether it will ever actually become a reality, the pandemic has exponentially boosted the use of modern technologies. So, it does not seem so crazy to believe that the metaverse is closer than it seems.
In just a few years, we have gone from televisions to computers, tablets, and smartphones. Thus, the next step can only be the metaverse. Yet, the metaverse needs to have a physical infrastructure with worldwide Internet availability and low latency to thrive. But only about half of the population can enjoy this today. Global connectivity would drastically change the way we do business, interact, and even coexist in the real world. It would be a new world with almost no barriers. We would be talking about a new reality where time is not a dimension. We could ‘teleport’ immediately with just one single click. According to Mark Zuckerberg:
” We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, we’ll be able to feel present – like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are.”
The creator of Facebook is one of the most ambitious examples of people already investing billions in the creation of the metaverse. Its potential is beginning to unfold through certain industries such as the video game industry. Therefore, we could agree that individual metaverses already exist. What remains to become clear is whether or when it will reach millions of users at a global scale.
What are the most relevant aspects for it to work?
The three fundamental cornerstones of the metaverse are: presence, interoperability, and standardisation.
- Presence: the real feeling of being in a virtual space. The closest thing to this nowadays is Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Using headsets, users get the feeling of being present in a virtual space, enhancing the quality of online interactions. Although, Virtual Immersive Reality is probably the most realistic sensation that exists today. This is a three-dimensional environment that replaces the user’s physical reality with an artificial environment. Its ongoing development and growth will continue to have a clear impact on technological culture.
- Interoperability: the term refers to being able to seamlessly travel across virtual spaces using virtual assets or avatars. This is what Mark Zuckerberg was talking about, feeling close to our loved ones even if we are geographically distant. From an IT and business point of view, it is important to develop cross-platform content and software in order to build a stable and durable metaverse. Therefore, alongside this interoperability comes standardisation.
- Standardisation: enabling interoperability of platforms and services across the metaverse requires standardisation. Without it, it will be impossible for platforms to interoperate. As with other ICT technologies, standards and cooperation between global technological leaders seem to be key building blocks to create a real metaverse.
If we achieve these three pillars, we will be talking about worldwide metaverse. A metaverse for equality and representation. A place where everyone has the freedom and possibility to benefit from this new virtual reality.
How does this influence telecommunications?
It is not news to talk about the billions of dollars that mobile operators are investing in 5G networks. It is also not surprising that many of these companies are committed to the even more futuristic future of the metaverse. The truth is that 5G and the metaverse are closer than they might have seemed a few years ago. Nevertheless, it is also true that this reality is still difficult to achieve. Even so, many telcos are already starting to invest in metaverse-based platforms to bring the internet to life.
One of the biggest barriers for operators is the current limits of the internet to support the metaverse infrastructure. It is necessary to first have a virtual space in which there are no network outages, downtimes, etc. Once this internet barrier is overcome, there could be a win-win scenario in which all operators would gain and increase their revenues, starting with 5G. And, finally, mobile virtual network operators will be able to leverage on the demand for faster connectivity, more data storage and seamless connectivity.
Experts already expect 5G-enabled applications to account for 40% of the market by 2030. On the other hand, financing and financial partners are likely to become an important aspect for further investment in 5G. Offering such solutions will also allow virtual service providers to focus on their business while connecting to the virtual world.
In other words, the new metaverse phenomenon will drive the adoption of 5G (and vice versa). Consequently, it will also help monetise all the multi-million dollar investments made to date. The world keeps turning and moving forward. Technologies are improving at an exponential rate, so it is not surprising to believe that the world could become a kind of Matrix where virtual reality becomes a parallel world where anything is possible, and time does not exist. Perhaps the reality we are talking about will become something similar to what current series such as ‘Upload’ depict. Or shall we transcend fiction?
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