5G and the metaverse are two technologies on the rise. The first is already in a more advanced phase of deployment, the second is in an embryonic phase. But connectivity will support the development of virtual worlds. At the same time, these will favor the adoption of the new generation of telecommunications.
The 5G, in a forecast by PwC, will have an impact on the global economy of 1,300 million dollars in the year 2030. This is divided into multiple sectors, from the manufacturing industry to health services, financials, or the consumer market. At the same time, metaverse technology is expected to grow at a rapid rate. The technology consulting firm Emergent Research estimates that this market as a whole (including hardware, software, platform, and application developments) will increase by an average of 43.3% per year until 2028. The starting point puts it at $47.69 billion in 2020.
More explicit is the analysis made by Goldman Sachs, in its report ‘Framing the future of Web 3.0. Metaverse Edition’. In it, he points out that the digital economy represented 15.5% of the total world GDP in 2018, according to the United Nations. The financial firm estimates that in 2021 this market would have reached a share of 16.8%. From there, he presents two scenarios for the metaverse and Web3, concepts that he practically integrates into a unit. According to his calculations, in the most conservative approach, around 15% of the digital economy would be focused on the metaverse and the growth of this digital market would be 2.5%. Here, the market opportunity for Web3 technologies is at 2.6 billion (of Spanish) dollars.
But Goldman Sachs offers another scenario, this time with the most enthusiastic outlook possible. In it, we would see 33% of the digital economy turn towards the metaverse and an expansion of digital markets of 25%. The business opportunity here would be $12.5 billion. These are dizzying figures but they indicate the enormous expectations that have been placed on this technology. Although yes, from the firm they specify that all this will take place over an extended period. They calculate about two decades, the equivalent of what Web 2.0 has been running today.
But the metaverse will not be able to reach these market numbers without mass adoption. And for that, you need blazing-fast connectivity. 4G is not enough to offer an enriched experience in virtual worlds, neither for bandwidth nor for latency.
Metaverses and 5G
Today everything that happens in the metaverse happens in virtual reality glasses. That is, there is local processing that delivers the graphics and functions included in the scenario. But the voice of the users, through a microphone, their gestures, and movements, read through the controls and controllers, are sent to the server. All this information has to be reflected for the user and for other users in real-time.
That’s why latency is key. It’s possible to get low latency with a wired connection (although glasses tend to be wireless) or with fiber and WiFi. The other option is to resort to 5G, which will be the alternative when the user is not at home or in the office. With the new network generation, rates are achieved in 1-5 milliseconds, when 4G offers values of 50 milliseconds.
Keep in mind that latency is related to the number of images or frames per second (fps) that can be transmitted to the glasses. If the rate does not reach at least 60 fps, users could notice it in the experience (there could be dizziness when turning the head, for example).
Speed for virtual worlds
Virtual and augmented reality is the technological foundation of the metaverses. And they require a high-speed connection to function properly. Not only will you be able to enter these virtual worlds through the glasses. Smartphones will also allow entry, as well as tablets or computers. It may even be that this technological trend stimulates the appearance of new portable or wearable devices.
In this scenario, in which more and lighter devices will be connected to the metaverse, the speed of 5G will be key. The fact that the devices are simpler (the glasses tend to lower the hardware they mount) means that more processing load will take place in the cloud. Here a high speed of data transmission will become essential.
Without forgetting that one of the advantages that 5G will offer to the metaverse is remote rendering. Thanks to edge computing, it will be possible to have an experience closer to what video streaming is today. And this will be important at first as it will allow the use of a large number of devices, regardless of their technical characteristics. Although the graphical experience may suffer, with a high-speed connection the platform’s functions will work correctly.
Virtual replicas of reality
Companies will also enter the metaverses for their own internal needs. There are already examples of companies that have designed replicas of industrial environments, such as a factory or warehouse. They are built for demonstration purposes or to help train employees.
And this, that of the business sector, will be another of the adoptions of metaverse technology. It is still early to know if the proposals for the consumer market will be developed first or if the business metaverses will lead the way. But there is no doubt that the latter will have their own role in the spread of technology. And to create these virtual replicas it is necessary to combine virtual and augmented reality. One of the basic steps is to generate a digital map of the environment, something that will be easier if there are sensors distributed throughout the factory or warehouse. In this way, the movements of machinery or goods can be recorded in real-time. This type of data would be essential for an adequate representation, which allows the simulation of projects or certain processes.