Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, speaks during the virtual Facebook Connect event, where the company announced its rebranding as Meta, in New York on Oct. 28, 2021.
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Meta, formerly Facebook, has said that its grand ambition of building the ultimate “metaverse” won’t be possible if there aren’t drastic improvements in today’s telecoms networks.
The metaverse is a buzzword that’s being hyped up as the next big thing in tech. Broadly speaking, the concept refers to a seamless virtual world where people can work, shop and play with their colleagues, friends and family.
Dan Rabinovitsj, VP of connectivity at Meta, told CNBC at the Mobile World Congress tech event Monday that home networks and cellular networks aren’t yet ready for the metaverse.
“We’re working closely with our colleagues to think about what’s the next step in terms of innovation,” he said, adding that Meta is also working with cellular partners.
“If you really look at the pace of innovation in the telecom world, compared to other markets, it’s been harder to go faster in this space,” Rabinovitsj said. “One of the things that we’ve tried to change is that trajectory of innovation.”
While a true metaverse does not exist yet, there are some early projects underway that give an insight into what it’s all about. Meta’s Oculus virtual reality headsets have been hailed as a gateway to some of these new metaverse experiences. But the experiences require low latency and higher upload and download speeds.
“We need to develop a common language around the performance of networks,” Rabinovitsj said. “We’re actually big believers in measurement as foundational in this next phase of work.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s founder and CEO, said in a statement Sunday that “creating a true sense of presence in virtual worlds delivered to smart glasses and VR headsets will require massive advances in connectivity.”
Zuckerberg said this will need to be “bigger than any of the step changes we’ve seen before,” adding that things like wide-scale immersive video streaming will take entirely new types of networks.
In response, Marc Allera, CEO of the consumer division of U.K. mobile network BT, told CNBC Wednesday that he expects the metaverse to place a strain on today’s networks. However, he said the telecoms industry is spending billions on new technology.
“When you stop and think about what you’re able to do on a smartphone today, compared to 10 years ago, that’s as a result of this industry and network operators investing huge amounts of money with no contribution made by content companies on these networks,” Allera said ahead of a meeting with representatives from Meta.
“I’ll try and understand what their role in supporting this ecosystem is other than just asking what we’re doing about it,” he added.
AT&T Executive Vice President David Christopher told CNBC that 5G is being deployed faster than 4G was, adding that there is “massive investment across operators.”
He claimed that networks already offer low latency, consistent speeds and high capacity. “This will only improve over this next decade to support many use cases across many industries, including immersive and metaverse-like experiences,” Christopher said.
“However the Metaverse develops, it will depend on innovation and interoperability across many sectors, with advanced connectivity from 5G as an essential element.”
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