Metaverse Ready Networks – An Exploration of Reality

In late October of 2021, Metaverse entered the technosphere like a thundering meteor to kick-off the cycle of endless speculations, prognostications, hypomania, and navel gazing. Facebook changed its name to Meta heralding a new era of the Internet that will be powered by the Metaverse. In fact, Metaverse is the next generation of Internet we have been waiting for, so the proclamation went. Media behaved as if they have discovered life on Mars or sign of alien life, startups surreptitiously added metaverse to their pitch-decks, and metaverse experts came out of the woodworks at the stroke of first light. Almost a year has gone by, and the noise has quietened down a bit, reality has set in, and a more serious discussion about the next phase of an interactive, immersive evolution of the Internet has begun.

While a lot of focus has been on the application and the user experience, scant attention has been paid to the building blocks of making the “next version of Internet” possible, especially the networking, computing, and storage that will be required to make it all work. Of course, first we must agree to the definition of the metaverse, so the industry has a common base to work from. Then, we must look at the existing capabilities and the technological gaps. We must also understand which elements of the metaverse are going to scale to millions and which ones will go beyond to billions. Finally, we should try to grasp the element of timing which is always the hardest piece of the puzzle. Timing will dictate the flow of investments and returns.

It should be noted that prior to Q4 2021, almost none of the discussions in the standards bodies talked about the metaverse. The closest they came to it was imagining an immersive VR experience and that’s clearly one of the main elements of how metaverse is being defined but not the only one. Whatever the experience, whatever the applications and end-user devices, for metaverse to scale to billions of users, the network communication and computing infrastructure must play a central role in its evolution, or it will be relegated to niche use cases. But is metaverse one thing or a spectrum of experiences across a continuum that helps us scale the network with demand? Should network providers build “metaverse ready networks” before the demand shows up? Or does the means justify the end? Does metaverse require the invention of new protocols, new waveforms, new architectures, and fundamentally a new way to design the networks?

With a quantum leap in the required investments, what will be the primary funding mechanisms? It is clear that the traditional GB/mo models won’t work, so, how should the ecosystem think about the cost of data consumption? What are the implications on data security, storage, and privacy? Should regulators get involved early in the cycle or wait till the dust settles? Should more spectrum be allocated with metaverse in mind or industry should come up with better technological breakthroughs to resolve the constraints? How will geo-politics impact the metaverse evolution?

We don’t know the answers to all these questions yet, but we need to raise them to facilitate dialog and progress. At this stage of the evolution, metaverse needs both crazy visionaries and technology pragmatists. We need innovators who go against the grain to invent new things and the practical realists who can help connect the dots from where we are today to where we are heading.

Network will be the fundamental building block of the metaverse. As the network planners and the strategists, the CTOs and the CFOs assess how to prepare for the metaverse opportunity, they need clarity in how the market is likely to evolve and what tools to use.

Metaverse Ready Networks: An Exploration of Reality frames the answers to the key questions in front of the industry. It is the first industry paper that attempts to look at the reality of the metaverse from the network angle – what will it take to implement the vision of the metaverse, how the different shades of metaverses will interact with the networks, what are the specific requirements, where are the gaps, what does the metaverse journey look like for this coming decade, and most importantly, when will the “metaverse ready networks” be ready?

Table of Contents

Defining the Metaverse Spectrum
Evolution of Consumer Behavior
Metaverse Use Cases
Metaverse Readiness
The Progression of Network Capabilities and Usage
Lessons from the LTE Cycle
Metaverse: Technology Feasibility vs. Economic Viability
Network Cost of Supporting Metaverse Applications
Other Metaverse Considerations
Network Capabilities of Existing Networks
Uplink Requirements for Metaverse
Role of Edge Computing in Metaverse
Backhaul Requirements for the Metaverse
Mapping Metaverse Requirements to Network Capabilities
Metaverse Monetization: Alternates to Network Densification
Metaverse: Enterprise vs. Consumer
Different Shades of Metaverses
Metaverse – Does the National Spectrum Strategy Need a Reboot?
Will Net Neutrality Derail the Metaverse?
Metaverse and Standards
Networking areas – Research, Evolution, and Breakthroughs
Conclusions and Future Work
About Chetan Sharma Consulting
About the Author