By Manish Sinha
The seamless fusion of the physical and digital worlds is the promise of the metaverse. In the actual world, we have a variety of options, freedom of movement, and quick access to global communication. We need next-generation networks to bring this variety of experiences along with consistency into the metaverse, regardless of where each user is in the world. By 2026, 25% of individuals will utilise the metaverse at least once every day for socialising, education, shopping, or entertainment purposes, predicts research firm Gartner. In our current world, we haven’t even properly imagined the kind of network overhaul the Metaverse would need.
Some of the obvious gaps that we see today are insufficient interoperability, processing power, software protocols, networking capabilities, and levels of sophistication to construct a genuine metaverse. The Metaverse is the much-needed clarion call that will align all technologies to create the fast, agile networks of the future we so deserve.
Over the past ten years, the connectivity industry has concentrated on developing the infrastructure required to service the billions of users who have joined a mobile-first internet.
In the next decade of network creation, metaverse’s underlying technologies, VR/AR, are predicted to see an increase in global spending from $12 billion in 2020 to $72.8 billion in 2024. To realise the metaverse’s value, we need to act now on reforming our networks.
Expectations from our Networks for Metaverse
- Increased bandwidth, latency, and dependability – For an immersive video streaming experience, the network will need to accommodate resolutions beyond 4K to work well with the head-mounted displays. Similarly, for a realistic experience of the virtual world, graphics need to update fast enough for meaningful interactions. Network bandwidth for the metaverse will need to be even faster than what today’s gaming applications demand. This should cover chip sets, battery technologies, cloud servers, storage, 5G, and Wi-Fi transmission, among other things. With a clear road to 6G to boost speeds by a massive order of magnitude, the infrastructure advancements in computing, connectivity, and storage powered by AI should considerably increase bandwidth capacity while lowering network latency. XGS-PON, which can deliver 10-gigabit symmetrical broadband, is presently being used by last-mile fibre manufacturers. With 300-gigabit pipes, new middle-mile connections should be built that connects the smallest of the small cities. We must consider low latency of fewer than 10 milliseconds.
- Symmetric Bandwidth: Upload and download speeds need to be the same so that users of the metaverse can send information as quickly as they receive it. A technology that is capable of handling the volume of data and the speed of data transfer that the functioning and existence of metaverses would necessitate is needed. This will be crucial for existing fibre optics, with its transfer rate and latency, as well as upcoming advancements like fibre optics and the quantum Internet, to take centre stage.
- No downtime and Dependable Performance: The metaverse needs to be ‘always on’, but apart from this it needs to be reliable, resilient and consistent enough that the average person and business can think about using it regularly
- Scalability: We witnessed the impact that smartphones have had on every industry and essentially, our lives. The metaverse will have the same revolutionary potential to transform education, work, healthcare, finance, entertainment etc if it can reach billions of people, as it is expected to on the back of Web3 technology
For the above to be a reality, network architectures will need to be supported by open interfaces, cloud computing and more open ecosystems like OpenRAN.
Collaboration and co-innovation are our best bet
In order to take advantage of the potential of Metaverse, it will necessitate significant capacity improvements and fundamental changes in the way networks are designed and deployed, which will require extensive industry cooperation involving telecom companies, mobile network operators, policymakers, and everyone in between. Network creators would need to invest in satellites, fibre optic lines, subsea cables and drones that are autonomously transmitting the internet. They would need to accelerate the readiness of networks and devices through various testing and trial programmes.
Large corporations and start-ups both are moving to invest and are getting ready to adopt the metaverse. But we will not be able to use legacy infrastructure to implement the metaverse, which is a technology of the future. Enterprises must abandon outdated IT strategies and switch to modern, decentralised architectures. In addition, OPEX-supporting digital core environments will help organisations strike a balance between their financial realities and metaverse ambitions. Telcos and other network creators should address the problem of superior control via concepts like software-defined networks and especially bring in advanced security frameworks for metaverse networks. Although these are critical success factors for operators to win, the success of the metaverse will largely depend on how quickly the industry is able to lay the groundwork to build this all-exciting metaverse.
One thing is certain – as the line between physical and digital encounters gradually blurs, network creators will assume a prominent role and the reach of our imagination will take centre stage.
(The author is CMO, Sterlite Technologies Ltd. Views are personal)