The metaverse has the potential to overturn how the internet operates, and in turn, how consumers live, work, and behave. Industries will be transformed, society will function differently and – inevitably – the way we conduct business will change, too.
The acceleration of the metaverse will require complex underpinning infrastructure, which is where telecom operators come in. The metaverse offers opportunities for operators to enhance customer experience, monetise investments and increase operational efficiency.
However, beyond all this, the metaverse will create a unique opportunity to play a lead role as cocreators of the metaverse. That said, for this to be successful, telecom operators must identify and establish their role within the broader metaverse ecosystem, rather than riding on the coattails of leading gaming and technology operators.
There are several ways telecom operators can do this:
1. Grasp the hardware opportunity
Devices, including headsets, consoles, and smartphones, are the portal to the metaverse. While AR and VR technologies are not new, they need to be improved to bring them into the mainstream, addressing issues like portability, responsiveness, and resolution. The metaverse will ignite rapid acceleration in demand for these devices, creating a huge opportunity for telecom operators to collaborate with producers to drive adoption, using similar models to regular device and connectivity bundles. However, it is important that in doing so, operators take an end-to-end device lifecycle management approach, to unlock value for customers and their business, avoiding being just a device sales channel for manufacturers.
2. Lead the ecosystem
As operators further refine their strategies to engage with the metaverse, ecosystems and partnership frameworks will help unlock growth. Relationships must be built now with stakeholders across the ecosystem, from device manufacturers to platform providers to capitalise on the long-term opportunities afforded by the metaverse. Engagement with policymakers will also be crucial here.
3. Be the connector
The metaverse is entirely reliant on connectivity. 5G is the answer. In the future, we are likely to witness another generational shift towards 6G, with high data transfer speeds and decreasing latency, providing further impetus to the metaverse. Making plans now to prioritise the fast and effective roll-out of 5G, 6G and fibre technologies to become the provider of choice makes smart business sense.
4. Embrace edge computing
The metaverse will require computational power hundreds of times greater than what exists today, and edge computing will become an essential foundation to the metaverse. When millions of people have concurrent virtual experiences, the cloud will not be capable of centralising and storing all the data involved. What this means is that this data will need to be distributed and made available closer to the point of consumption, creating huge opportunities for telecom operators to provide edge computing services to unlock more efficient data transfer, enhance security, relieve congestion, and diversify their revenue streams in the process.
5. Capitalise on data through advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence
How data is collected, stored, and repurposed will be crucial in the metaverse. Telecom operators will have many advantages when it comes to repurposing data to improve decision-making and creating new demand scenarios. Huge volumes of product, customer and asset data will sit with operators within the metaverse, while their retail and distribution capabilities will provide insights. Innovative analytics and AI capabilities are essential for this to succeed and monetise the opportunity.
6. Prioritise trust, privacy, and cybersecurity
The metaverse will create unforeseen volumes of critical personal data, which brings with it a huge responsibility on the parts of enterprises and telecom operators to protect that data. Privacy and security must be top of the list of priorities. Operators tend to be more trusted by consumers as data custodians, than other TMT provider, giving them an immediate advantage. Operators should leverage their existing customer relationships to position themselves as identity management experts as the metaverse takes off.
7. Engage with metaverse platforms
Many organisations are launching their own metaverse platforms, each aiming to attract the maximum number of users. As competition escalates, these platforms will need to create compelling, themed experiences that make users want to spend more time there, offering customised offerings. The evolution of the metaverse is likely to be gradual, evolving from the combination of smaller virtual worlds, ultimately to one super virtual world. The opportunity in this gradual evolution for telecom operators to invest in emerging metaverse platforms to enable a deeper understanding that will help shape the long-term opportunity.
There is a significant opportunity for telecom operators to move up the value chain in the Metaverse, building on their early advantage with connectivity and growing services into their extensive customer bases. But this comes with a price – investment is required in technologies and partnerships with a need for greater focus on data. Ireland is clearly a hub of development for the Metaverse. Technologies such as Web3, Blockchain, NFTs are just some of the areas EY is helping clients with as well as new challenges around ownership and liability for example. The winners will be the telecom operators who can balance both the development of their presence in the Metaverse while continuing to deliver business performance in the real world and understanding where the two will meet.