There is a lot of hype around the metaverse concept, which is presented as a new world which will make our lives better by merging the physical with digital in a new, much more immersive way than has so far been possible via smartphone. The benefits for us as consumers are heightened, the benefits for the platform owner are somehow less advertised, but no one should be naive and realize that behind this exciting vision, the question who is going to fill his pocket with the money is ongoing. For telco operators, there is huge potential to present themselves as enablers for that metaverse. Still, operators may need to fight for their role and revenue share from metaverse business.
The role of digital twins in the telecom metaverse
As “metaverse” is generating such a buzz, there’s little wonder that other terms are being used in a similar vein in an attempt to benefit from the hype. One example is “industrial metaverse”. Some skeptics may add to that the Industry 4.0 and digital twin concepts stand alone, and don’t need “metaverse” to add any value. The digital twin concept in particular assumes that, thanks to the IoT, physical entities (even an industry factory as a whole), can be digitally represented; what is more, you can interact with the physical word via a digital twin.
What can “metaverse” add to this? In the factory instance, digital twins often referred to the 3D representation of the machines. When we add factory workers (human beings) as a part of the digitized factory, they can not only observe on their screens the machine digital twins, but also walk digitally on the factory floor, making the term “industrial metaverse” more descriptive than simply “digital twin”.
The power of the 6G metaverse
Whether the “metaverse” term is needed is one thing, but the importance of industry digitization nowadays is unquestionable. Telco, and 5G networks in particular, are also important in making smart factories even smarter. When we add to this metaverse the requirements for more immersive environments for factory workers than just observing the factory on a computer screen, it becomes necessary to realize the concept not only of seeing but also feeling/touching digital objects as if they were real. For that to come true, you may need not only 5G network but also 6G, with its promise to be able to support tactile services and hologram-like views of objects updated in real time with its physical peers. This is all due to the fact that this type of immersive experience requires huge amounts of data to be transmitted at extremely low latency. For that, a 5G/6G network is a must.
It seems that telco operators are well positioned to play the role of providers of the enabling wireless technology for the industrial metaverse. But firms are not going to buy just 5G or 6G networks. It expects the industrial metaverse to prove its value in reducing costs and improving effectiveness of the factory. So telco needs to create or be part of the digital ecosystem where network solutions are combined with specialized industry applications. Telcos may need a service orchestration solution which can deliver E2E solutions with instantiation of the 5G/6G network slices as one of the steps, which must be accompanied by vertical-specific applications. For that, telcos need a special type of partners and solutions which can play the role of a "bridge" between telco and vertical worlds.