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The line between the physical and digital worlds has been steadily blending, with the goal of fulfilling the future metaverse. This total immersion experience could take years to mature but the metaverse market is already estimated to generate almost $800 billion in 2024.

Moreover, by 2030, the metaverse market is expected to grow by over 40% annually, showing great opportunity for openness and collaboration among policymakers, experts, industry partners, telecom operators, and other digital-based companies.

The new communications realm will extend beyond borders and could enable limitless opportunities in various sectors — gaming, retail, medical, financial, and construction, among others. Nevertheless, to be able to succeed in this visionary world, many factors must be considered.

The next level of immersion

For consumers or enterprises, metaverse addresses the increasing engagement with digital systems, socializing through digital space, and driving interconnectedness. The metaverse is going to be a collection of experiences across devices, time, and place, in a mixed reality landscape.

These experiences will be enabled by a new infrastructure that allows global instant real-time communications, with new ways to manage presence and interactions as well as earn and secure assets of all kinds. In a bird’s eye view, there is no single metaverse today. With a lot of different metaverses — mostly gaming with others in initial development stages — our digital interactions are evolving from the devices and interfaces we interact with into an extension of ourselves.

Let’s zoom in to the Middle East region alone. Being one of the most-advanced tech hubs in the world, it is no surprise that a lot of metaverse-inspired projects have already been announced, with more to come in the near future. One of the most-awaited ones is Neom Tech & Digital’s XVRS platform which creates a cognitive digital twin metaverse that will enable visitors in NEOM as an avatar or hologram. XVRS will offer a virtual representation of NEOM, helping with the actual construction of the billion-dollar futuristic city. On the other hand, representing the future of dining, the MetaTerrace in DIFC can give its customers a metaverse experience as an entertainment offering. Additionally, Dubai’s MOHAP taps the metaverse to improve the lives of citizens by debuting the world’s first metaverse customer happiness service center. People can also join the group’s MetaHealth space, receive key information, pay medical fees, submit documents, and perform other services virtually.

In the metaverse, our experiences will be 3D and multi-sensory — an upgrade from living ‘on’ the internet to ‘in’ the internet where you can even start buying digital land, construct virtual homes, play with international friends, and conduct simulation operations in real-time. In fact, Gartner expects that in a four-year timeframe (2026), 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social media, and other activities.

By and large, metaverse requires multiple technologies and trends to function including augmented reality (AR), flexible work styles, head-mounted displays (HMDs), Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and spatial technologies.

As our virtual and physical worlds become more aggressively intertwined, metaverse may evolve to become a universal digital platform for personal and commercial interactions and become the source of the most valuable data.

What metaverse needs to succeed

With the potential of unlimited reality within virtual immersive worlds, the form and amount of content are going to be heavier. Thus, edge computing, faster connectivity from technologies like 5G and Wi-Fi 6, and faster processors must be invested in to ensure metaverses’ seamless access, interaction, and development.

Embracing persistent worlds means the technological paradigm is going to be different. We have to maintain a living world and do simultaneous adjustments along the way. It's not like a game where you can pause, make changes, or restart. A persistent world is always on. Hence, there's a lot of room for innovation in terms of handling interactivity and scripting in an environment with millions of active users. What we have today is not adequate to facilitate adoption and needs to be evolved, in terms of architecture and technology innovation.

With high-speed 5G becoming mainstream and the availability of gigabit optical broadband networks, terminals such as VR glasses and motion sensing devices can connect to various servers to create a deeply immersive and realistic society. Taking the approach of being in a new generation of mobile internet, various remote education, remote shopping, cloud games, immersive tourism, and other application scenarios will become prominent applications.

These applications are already explored by operators, making metaverse an ideal stage to promote the emergence of 5G applications further. As a competitive edge, operators with 5G, gigabit optical broadband, big data, cloud and edge computing, among other capabilities at hand will have a favorable position in the metaverse than other digital companies.

Building a "connection + computing power + capability" network that is suitable to the metaverse will be a huge contribution to the thriving digital economy. Many experts believe that for the metaverse to mature and become meaningful, openness and more cooperation among tech giants like Microsoft, Meta, Google, and Apple are required. This will enrich deep integration and functionality.

It is yet to be known exactly how metaverse will impact future broadband speed and bandwidth requirements. What most analysts agree on is that this hybrid world will only fully work if latency is basically non-existent. This would mean more and bigger pipes to accommodate the bandwidth, speed, and latency needs of future customers.

More players continue to bet big on this trend as it paves the way of unlocking the future of the digital universe. It will apparently take years — or even decades — of R&D, innovation, and standardization to live up to the hype. As for the ICT industry, ultra-fast and high bandwidth connectivity requirements and the development of sophisticated apps and devices toolkits bring massive business monetization opportunities.

For the new human interface to succeed, digital business strategies that leverage the built-in infrastructure of metaverse must be established. Along with this, the unique technology risk, privacy, and security implications in this new persistent and decentralized environment must be identified and mitigated properly.

In a nutshell, the metaverse concept is getting a lot of publicity at the moment, but it is still at a very early stage. How this pans out will depend on the digital foundations that we build today, which include smooth connectivity and high levels of interoperability across devices, cloud platforms, and networks. The need for low-latency, high bandwidth ultra-resilient networks is set to surge, bringing together CSPs, cloud providers, content developers, hardware manufacturers, regulators, etc.
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