Before carriers and enterprises can monetize the metaverse, it still has to be built. Verizon and Meta staked their claims this week with the announcement of a “first-of-its-kind strategic partnership” at Verizon’s Investor Day 2022 event on Thursday.
The new collaboration will forge foundational metaverse technology, according to company executives. Together, Verizon and Meta plan to develop a platform equipped to handle the core streaming and rendering capabilities needed for metaverse applications.
The announcement takes place against the backdrop of Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona, as the industry focuses more attention on how to monetize the edge – and, by extension, the metaverse.
Rima Qureshi, EVP and chief strategy officer of Verizon, explained Verizon’s network strategy to Investor Day attendees: extend the company’s leadership position in mobility, capture a destructive share of the broadband market, and create new business models and ecosystems enabled by 5G and edge computing.
That message was recently underscored by Verizon Chief Revenue Officer Sampath Sowmyanarayan.
“5G is all about the ecosystem. You cannot do it yourself. That’s been our focus on anything 5G-related,” he said.
Building MEC infrastructure and partnerships has been essential to Verizon as it enters its “second phase of 5G.” Verizon continues to build out MEC infrastructure in public form and on-premise for private use on its 5G network, while it delivers services with an expanding network of partners.
At the Investor Day event, Qureshi described “a hyper connected [network] model which needs massive capacity, low latency and increased security.”
“Our ongoing intelligent edge network transformation is already driving significant cost efficiencies. The continued buildout of our one fiber program is extending our owner’s economics to effectively compete in all of our businesses,” she said.
“When we started building 5G Ultra Wideband, we were most excited by the use cases that were not yet envisioned. Take the metaverse, for example. Over the next decade, the metaverse will create virtual spaces that are more immersive and realistic than ever before, providing people with unique ways to connect across work, home, and play,” said Qureshi.
Qureshi said that Verizon will couple its 5G Ultra Wideband network and edge compute capabilities with Meta to deliver Extended Reality (XR) cloud-based rendering and low latency streaming, key metaverse enablers.
“This is to understand the foundational requirements for the metaverse and its applications,” said Qureshi.
“In addition, some features of the metaverse will require that cloud computing infrastructure move closer to end users,” she said.
“Our efforts will enable both companies to measure the impact of edge computing on key application performance metrics and evaluate where our network capabilities can enable more powerful metaverse-optimized applications,” Qureshi added.
Quereshi’s early comment about the next decade may give Verizon investors a sense of scope to this Meta announcement. Meta, for its part, is doing its best to pitch the metaverse to its partners as a generationally transformative technology experience.
Verizon is investing in fiber to support its continued 5G network buildout with the expectation of being able to support whatever the network needs, metaverse notwithstanding. Verizon’s also looking to the future with its investment business unit’s funding of passive optical network (PON) transceiver maker PICadvanced (PICa). PICa is miniaturizing and simplifying a new-generation PON System on a Chip (SoC) using integrated photonics, according to reports.
But Meta is also expecting telcos to do a lot of the heavy lifting to make it happen. Last week, Meta Connectivity Vice President Dan Rabinovitsj sketched out in broad strokeshis company’s vision for the global information infrastructure needed to make the metaverse.
From Meta’s perspective, the entire communications stack is going to need work to drive a seamless experience, and lots of the technology is still waiting in the wings.
“Making the metaverse a reality will require significant advancements in network latency, symmetrical bandwidth and overall speed of networks,” he said.
“Delivering such an experience will require innovations in fields like hybrid local and remote real-time rendering, video compression, edge computing, and cross-layer visibility, as well as spectrum advocacy, work on metaverse readiness of future connectivity and cellular standards, network optimizations, improved latency between devices and within radio access networks (RANs), and more,” said Rabinovitsj.